The Federal Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole has announced that 86 cases of Lassa fever have been reported in 10 states of Nigeria. The case fatality rate is 45% with 40 deaths reported since the first case in November 2015. It is heartening to note that prompt action is being taken by the FMOH to make the treatment Ribavirin available to affected states.
WHAT IS LASSA FEVER?
Lassa fever is an acute haemorrhagic illness which belongs to the arenarvirus family of viruses, which also includes the Ebola-like Marburg virus. It is NOT Ebola.
The virus is common in rodents in West Africa, is transmitted to humans by contact with food or household items contaminated with the animals’ faeces and urine.
Person-to-person contact is also possible through bodily fluids, particularly in hospitals when adequate infection control measures are not taken.
Signs and symptoms of Lassa fever typically occur 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus that come from rats. About 80% of Lassa fever virus infections symptoms are mild and are undiagnosed.
Mild symptoms of Lassa fever include slight fever, general malaise and weakness, and headache. These symptoms are nonspecific and this make the diagnosis often difficult. The symptoms are smilar to malaria.
In 20% of infected patients the disease may progress to more serious symptoms including bleeding in gums, eyes, or nose; breathing difficulties respiratory distress, repeated vomiting, facial swelling of the face, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen, and shock. Death may occur within two weeks after symptom onset due to multi-organ failure.
The death rates for women in the last three months of pregnancy are particularly high.
If you have these symptoms and have treated yourself for malaria and not getting better, please attend the appropriate hospital.