What is Lassa fever and how can you protect yourself?

Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever, is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus (LASV).



What is Lassa fever and symptoms?
What is Lassa fever and how can you protect yourself?


People usually become infected with Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or faeces of infected rats – present in many West African countries where the disease is endemic olso the health information. What are the symptoms? How does it spread? And how can you protect yourself?


How To Protect Yourself From The Virus

  • The first line of defence against a viral infection like Lassa fever is using effective public health measures to reduce your risk of exposure.
  • These include good sanitation and hygiene, safe disposal of waste and having sufficient quantities of clean water for domestic use.
  • It’s also important to avoid contact with rats by not storing food in rat-infested areas, keeping your home clean at all times, avoiding setting up businesses or homes near rodent habitats (e.g., in wooded areas) and wearing gloves if working around potentially infected material.
  • Finally, individuals should seek medical attention if they develop flu-like symptoms within 3 weeks after travelling from an area where outbreaks have been reported.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment is key to preventing death as Lassa fever can be treated effectively when detected early.


As said on WHO report The characteristic features of Lassa virus disease are:

fever; headache; neck stiffness; upper respiratory tract symptoms including sore throat, hoarseness or cough;

diarrhea - either bloody or containing blood or mucus; abdominal pain, vomiting and bleeding. – If any one complains about these signs, doctors will test them for the virus. Diagnosis can be made through detecting IgM antibodies in patient's serum/plasma.


How is Lassa fever similar to Ebola?


What is Lassa fever?
What is Lassa fever?

The main similarity between Ebola and Lassa fever viruses is that they both cause hemorrhagic fevers.

The primary difference is that humans do not appear to be able to transmit Lassa virus between each other, while humans are thought to be able to transmit Ebola virus among themselves. Also, while Zaire ebolavirus (the most common type of Ebola) has been found in many species of fruit bats in Africa, no evidence exists of any role for bats in transmitting any human viral diseases.

As such, bats are only a potential source of infection for research scientists working with infected animals or tissues. How is Lassa fever different from Ebola?: The two diseases differ greatly in their basic epidemiology (patterns of spread). Both are endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa; however, since its initial recognition in 1969, cases due to Lassa virus have been reported mainly from Nigeria, whereas those due to Ebola virus have appeared repeatedly over large areas stretching from Central African Republic to Cote d’Ivoire.


What are the symptoms of Lassa?

Early symptoms of Lassa may include headaches, muscle aches, tiredness, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

In more severe cases bleeding may occur from gums or nose. People will also often complain of sensitivity to light as well as sore throat that may last for up to three weeks before progressing to more life-threatening stages.

Later symptoms include high temperature (38°C – 40°C), convulsions, drowsiness, confusion, deafness and even psychosis. In some instances organs such as the liver and spleen will begin to fail rapidly resulting in death within two weeks of becoming infected with a range of debilitating complications also caused by organ failure including jaundice.

How do you contract Lassa?: The virus is transmitted to humans through direct contact with rats. It can spread to people through exposure to food or household items contaminated with rat urine or faeces; however it is not spread through human-to-human contact. Treatment options are limited but there are no vaccines available.


How common is Lassa fever?

The number of reported cases of Lassa fever in endemic areas has risen considerably in recent years, from a few hundred cases per year to over 2,000. Estimates suggest that there are up to 300,000 infections every year but many more people may have been infected without developing symptoms.


Data shows that 20% of infections lead to death. Among those who survive an infection, 20-50% develop hearing loss and 30-50% develop facial paralysis. Between 5-8% suffer long term neurological damage with potentially devastating consequences for victims' livelihoods; short term complications include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and pneumonia.


Can Lassa fever be cured?


Lassa fever is highly infectious, but not contagious. That means it's very easy to contract by being in close proximity to an infected person, but it cannot be spread through casual contact with someone who has Lassa fever.

This distinction between infection and contagiousness may seem like a minor detail, but it means that you cannot become infected simply by being around someone who has been infected with Lassa virus. Preventing infection requires limiting exposure to secretions from rats or household items contaminated with these rodents' waste products.


Facts about Lassa Fever


How is Lassa fever transmitted from person to person?
How is Lassa fever transmitted from person to person?

Lassa virus is endemic in West Africa, with large portions of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Guinea and Benin affected. In these countries rodent populations are in close contact with humans as they live in their thatched homes. Around 300 cases of human Lassa fever have been reported annually over the past decade. * A large proportion of those infected will have no symptoms or mild symptoms that resolve without treatment within one to two weeks. However for a small number (around 15%) symptoms can be more severe and lead to serious illness or death.


Lassa Fever Treatment

There are no specific treatments for Lassa fever. Treatments mainly involve fluid replacement to prevent dehydration from blood loss and transfusions to replace red blood cells that have been destroyed by antibodies. Infected people are also isolated in hospital. In severe cases, patients require intensive care support such as mechanical ventilation or renal replacement therapy. There is currently no vaccine available against Lassa virus but potential vaccines are being developed and tested in animals.

SOURCE : Yasoquiz




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