Lassa fever is an animal-borne acute viral illness. It is acute because it manifests in a short time with severe consequences, which may lead to death of the victim. The vector (or animal that spreads the virus) is the multimammate rat found in Nigeria, and some other parts of West Africa. Other countries with high occurrence include Liberia and Sierra Leone. Over 5,000 people are reported to die every year in West Africa due to Lassa fever.
This viral disease can spread from infected rats to humans and from human to human. To prevent contacting Lassa fever, you need to improve your hygiene practices. Keep all food and edible items away from where rats can reach them. You can use rat proof materials like properly covered containers to store foods, fruits, vegetables, and so on. You may also contact an expert to fumigate your house to get rid of rats. It may be a good option to avoid public foods especially where poor hygiene is a concern in preparing or storing those foods.
To prevent spread from human to human, avoid contacts with secretions (body fluids) of infected persons. Care must be taken when handling victims as well. Health care givers should consider having safe operating procedures (SOPs) and standard emergency management procedure to guide their operations. Use of correct and adequate personal protective equipment; leak proof hand gloves, full body protection, face protection, among others, should be considered. First Aiders should also be careful in handling victims. In the need to carry out CPR, you may consider doing standard chest compression without rescue breaths to avoid possible infections if one way mouth guard is not available. Click here to see the symptoms of Lassa fever.
As at today, January 27, 2020, a total of 195 new cases have been recorded from late last December. These new cases have occurred in 11 States of the Federation, leading to 29 deaths including health care professionals. Some of the affected States include Ondo, Eboyin, Edo, Kano, Jigawa and Delta States. Generally, we recommend that you do not based your actions on whether or not it has been reported in your location because people easily move across the country, and incubation period can take up to 14 days after contact. Therefore, take serious measures to prevent being infected.
Currently, there are no vaccines for Lassa fever, but the symptoms can be effectively managed if reported early. For more information, click here.