I’m sure you’ve all heard about the outbreak of Lassa fever in some states in Nigeria. Just in case you wondered what all of that means, here’s a quick class.
Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever. This essentially means that this sort of fever interferes with the body’s natural ability to form clots when bleeding occurs and can also damage the walls of small vessels encouraging leakage of blood with resultant internal bleeding. It is also infectious.
Transmission to humans is usually from contact with food or other household items that have been contaminated with faeces or urine of infected rat (Mastomys). Person to person transmission can also happen through direct contact with the bodily fluid (urine, blood, faces etc) of an infected person.
Symptoms include: fever and general weakness, followed by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, headache, cough, sore throat etc. This may progress to bleeding, facial swelling, seizures etc
Treatment of this disease using anti-viral drug, Ribavarin, appears effective especially if started early and so the focus is on early diagnosis and prompt treatment, if infected and on prevention for those not infected.
Prevention is focused on good hygiene which makes it difficult for rats to thrive. Tips to help with this include:
- Disposal of food far from the living environment and on a regular basis
- Storage of grains and other food stuff in containers that are ‘rodent-proof’
- Clearing of surrounding bushes around your house
- Ensuring doors and windows shut properly and have tight-fitting screens
Other general hygiene tips like consistent hand washing, wearing personal protective equipment by staff in healthcare settings to guard against body fluid splashes etc suffice. Remember that family members caring for people with this disease may be exposed to their bodily fluids and so absence of hygiene measures at home and indeed in hospital settings encourages this infection to spread. So, remember the Ebola measures to prevent infection? These are very useful here!
For more on infection control measures, please click on these links:
Stay safe, people J