Lassa Fever: Transmission, Signs And Symptoms, Prevention And Treatment - HHM

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Friday, 29 January 2016

Lassa Fever: Transmission, Signs And Symptoms, Prevention And Treatment

Lassa fever rat

Lassa fever or lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF) is a highly fatal viral disease caused by the hemorrhagic virus: Lassa virus (of the Arenaviridae virus family) and was first described in 1969 in the town of Lassa, in Borno State, Nigeria.

This is among the most highly fatal disease of the hemorrhagic fevers that is responsible for up to 80% of death in Northern part of Nigeria (with fewer cases in some states) other countries suffering from this viral infection include; Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Central African Republic

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Causes and Transmission of Lassa Fever

The host for the virus is the Natal multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis). The virus is transmitted (zoonotic – carried by rodents) by contact with the animal feces or urine.

This animal is a rat with many breasts and a long tail.

Humans can become infected when they consume foods contaminated with the urine or feces of the infected animal, after such consumption, the infected human can in turn spread this viral infection through blood, urine and other fluid that may get in contact with a normal individual.

The infection can also spread in the medical centres if equipment gets contaminated with the virus.

Signs and Symptoms of Lassa Fever

The incubation period of lassa virus is 6 - 21days, about 20% of the disease is complicated while 80% of the infection has no specific symptoms (asymptomatic).

 The non-specific symptoms include;

  •  fever
  • muscle pains
  • bleeding from tissues
  • Inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye 

other symptoms from organ infections include;
  • gastrointestinal tract infections
  • stomach pains
  • headache
  • nervous system disorders 
  • respiratory tract infections 
  • cardiovascular system disorders and 
  • death if untreated. 

To diagnose the disease several laboratory techniques has been developed including;

  • lymphopenia (low white blood cell count)
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelets) 
  • raised Aspartate aminotransferase (enzyme) levels in the blood
  • ELISA test (An assay that relies on enzymatic conversion reaction that detect the presence of the viral antigen).

Treatment of Lassa fever 

Patients suspected of lassa fever infection are isolated from the general public to avoid spread of the disease.

All treatment procedure for lassa fever require early detection else damage to major organs may be incurred before the treatment of the disease.

Treatment of lassa virus infection has been a success with Ribavirin (a drug administered intravenously as an inactive ribavirin but becomes active after metabolism.

 It acts by inhibiting the biosynthesis of the virus thereby terminating its growth and overall metabolic process.)

Prevention and Control of Lassa fever 

This keep your family and the general public safe from being infected by this pathogens the following safety tips for preventing infection of lassa fever. Below are some of the tips;

  • Rodents should be cleared away from homes through proper hygiene
  • Keep all food and containers covered to prevent contact with rodent
  • Consuming/Eating of rodents as a source of meat (bush meat)  should be avoided
  • Laboratories and health personnel should avoid contamination of laboratory equipment.
  • Incase symptoms or signs of suspected infections is noticed please stay away from touching this individual even family member while the attention of medical specialist is requested. 

Read more......  Other diseases you should be aware of