#LassaFever: Symptoms, How Infection Happens, How Bad This outbreak IS, and What To Do

Lassa Fever is an acute and often fatal viral disease, with fever, occurring chiefly in West Africa. It is usually acquired from infected rats.

What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms typically show 1-3 weeks after contact with the virus. Mild symptoms include weakness, slightly fever and general malaise. For the majority, about 80%, the viral infection symptoms are mild and undiagnosed.

In 20% of infected individuals, it progresses to more serious symptoms including hemorrhaging from orifices (eyes, nose, mouth). Watch out for repeated vomiting, facial swelling, respiratory problems, shock and pains in the back, abdomen and chest.

Severe cases also present loss of hearing, tremors and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The most common symptom is loss of hearing. Death may occur within 2 weeks after showing symptoms due to multi organ failure.


How Does Infection Happen?

Mastomys rodents are carriers of the virus. Once infected, the rodent remains infected for life and continually sheds the virus throughout its lifetime. They shed the virus through their urine, excreta or direct contact with house hold items. Transmission of the virus to humans is through inhalation or ingestion of contaminated food and water.

Infection occurs through contact with infected objects, contaminated food or inhalation during sweeping etc. The disease is not spread by casual contact where no exchange of bodily fluids occurs.


How Bad Is This outbreak?

Mortality rate for Lassa Fever is usually between 15-20%, but reports from this outbreak shows 43.3% mortality rate. A 43% mortality rate for a disease that usually has a mortality rate of 15-20% is quite worrisome and is a cause for concern.

The spread of affected states (Oyo, Rivers, Edo, Kano, Taraba, Niger, Nassarawa, Bauchi, Plateau and Gombe) is also worrisome.


What To Do

Buy foodstuff carefully. Better safe than sorry. Get rid of rodents in your residents.

Avoid eating rodents or bush meat in areas where outbreak has been reported.

When caring for infected persons, further transmission through nosocomial routes can be prevented by practicing barrier nursing

Thanks to Sally O., a trained microbiologist, who gave permission to share materials that she tweeted on the subject a few days ago.

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