SOMETIME in 1969 in a town called Lassa in the part of Nigeria now known as Borno State, a nurse in a mission hospital died of a mysterious disorder. There were two similar reported cases in Chicago, and New Jersey, United States (US). Both individuals had recent travel history to Africa, one to Nigeria, the other to Liberia, and succumbed to the illness after returning to the US.
Lassa Fever is an acute febrile illness with bleeding and death in severe cases, caused by the Lassa Fever virus with an incubation period of 6 to 21 days.
The disease can be contacted by:
*Ingestion of foods and drinks contaminated by the saliva, urine and faeces of infected rats;
*Catching and preparing infected rats as food;
*Inhaling tiny particles in the air contaminated with infected rat urine or droppings; and
*Direct contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids, through mucous membranes, like eyes, nose, or mouth.
About 80 per cent of human infections are asymptomatic, the remaining cases have severe multi-system disease, where the virus affects several organs in the body, such as the liver, spleen and kidneys.
The onset of the disease is usually gradual, starting with fever, general weakness, and malaise followed by headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and bleeding from mouth, nose, vagina or gastro-intestinal tract, and low blood pressure.
The reservoir or host of the Lassa virus is the “multi-mammate rat” called Mastomys natalensis
The Federal Ministry of Health has confirmed that out of the 76 victims of Lassa fever outbreak, 35 had lost their lives.
This disclosure came as panic spread across the country with 10 states said to be battling to curtail the spread of the disease.
The affected states are: Bauchi, Nassarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo.
The Minister of Health , Prof Isaac Adewole, in a statement issued in Abuja in response to the outbreak of disease in the country, said “the total number of suspected cases so far reported is 76 with 35 deaths, and a Case Fatality Rate of 46 per cent.” (Thisday, 10/01/2016).
It is important to promote good hygiene. Here are some more measures to keep in place:
· Avoid contact between rats and human beings;
· Keep your house and Environment clean
· Cover all foods and water properly.
· Cook all foods thoroughly
· Store foodstuffs in rodent proof containers
· Block all rat hideouts
· If you suspect that rat has eaten any food, discard it
· Family members should always be careful to avoid contact with blood and body fluids while caring for sick persons.
· Disposing of garbage far from the home, maintaining clean households
· Effective measures include storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers.