All You Need To Know About Lassa Fever

The Dreaded Lassa Fever : All You Need To Know

       All You Need To Know About Lassa Fever
We have all been hearing about Lassa fever in the news for quite a while, but what saddens the physiologist in me is that, most media outlets talk only about the end result of the disease, which is someone died of lassa fever and that ends the news or discussion about lassa fever, this is sad. So today, we will be discussing in detail about the virus Lassa Fever.

What Is Lassa Fever?

According to wikipedia, Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF), is a kind of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. It was first described in the 1950s, but the virus causing Lassa disease was not identified until 1969 in a town called Lassa in Borno state, Nigeria. The virus is a single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the virus family Arenaviridae.

About 4/5th of people who are infected with Lassa virus have no symptoms. While 20% of people show infections which result in severe diseases, where the virus affects several organs such as the liver, spleen and kidneys.

Lassa fever is a zoonotic disease, meaning that humans become infected from contact with infected animals. The animal reservoir, or host, of Lassa virus is a rodent of the genus Mastomys, commonly known as the “multimammate rat.” Mastomys rats infected with Lassa virus do not become ill, but they can shed the virus in their urine and faeces.

Lassa fever is known to be endemic in Benin (where it was diagnosed for the first time in November 2014), Ghana (diagnosed for the first time in October 2011), Guinea, Liberia, Mali (diagnosed for the first time in February 2009), Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, but probably exists in other West African countries as well.

What Are The Symptoms Of Lassa Fever?

The incubation period of Lassa fever ranges from 6 days–21 days. The onset of the disease, when it is symptomatic, is usually gradual, at the earlier stage, the symptoms are fever, general weakness, and malaise. After a few days, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and abdominal pain may follow. In severe cases facial swelling, fluid in the lung cavity, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure may develop.

In later stages, protein may be noted in the urine. Shock, seizures, tremor, disorientation, and coma may be seen. Deafness occurs in one-quarter of patients who survive the disease. In half of these cases, hearing returns partially after 4-12 weeks. Transient hair loss and gait disturbance may occur during recovery

Death usually occurs within 14 days of onset in fatal cases. The disease is especially severe late in pregnancy, with maternal death and/or fetal loss occurring in more than 80% of cases during the third trimester.

How Is Lassa Fever Spread?

One can become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats. Lassa virus is also transmitted between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of a person infected with Lassa fever. And no, there is no epidemiological evidence supporting airborne spread between humans, I see someone sighing there. Person-to-person transmission occurs where the virus may be spread by contaminated medical equipment, such as re-used needles and sexual contact.

Is There Any Form Of Treatment For Lassa Fever?

Sadly there is no vaccine for the disease. Prevention involves isolating those who are infected and decreasing contact with the rats. Treatment is directed at ensuring hydration and improving symptoms. The antiviral medication, ribavirin is only useful when given early.

To end with, because the clinical course of the disease has so many variables, detection of the disease in affected patients has been difficult. When presence of the disease is confirmed in a community, however, prompt isolation of affected patients, good infection prevention and control practices, and rigorous contact tracing can stop outbreaks.

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All You Need To Know About Lassa Fever All You Need To Know About Lassa Fever Reviewed by Aremu Segun on August 20, 2017 Rating: 5

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