Lassa fever is referred to as an Acute Viral Haemorrhagic disease illness that occurs for one to four weeks and is commonly found in West Africa (WHO 2016).
The Host of the Lassa fever virus is a Multimammate rat that when it reproduces births many more rats (WHO 2016) .
It can be transmitted to humans when they come in contact with the Rat as a food source in many states in the North and South Western region of Nigeria (WHO 2016) .
Apart from this when humans come in contact with the blood, urine and faeces of the rats or household items that have been contaminated, they run the risk of contracting the disease (WHO 2016) .
Also human to human and laboratory transmission can occur in hospitals and centre where infection prevention and control is lacking.
So far in Nigeria the outbreak has resulted in 41 deaths and hospitalization of 93 others. It is a highly contagious disease.
The risk is greatest in the rural areas or areas with poor sanitation (indiscriminate refuse dumping attracts rats), crowded living and health workers are also at risk. Also bush burning drives the rats into residential areas (WHO 2016).
On rare occasions travellers from the Lassa fever endemic areas may also import the disease (WHO 2016).
About 80 percent of people who get infected with Lassa fever will show no symptoms (WHO 2016).
It is usually gradual and starts with Fever, general weakness and malaise.
After a few days the individual might complain of the following;
Stomach Pain (WHO 2016)
In severe cases or at the later stages, they present with;
Fluid in their lungs
Bleeding from mouth, nose, vagina, the gastrointestinal tract (Food tract)
Low blood pressure may then occur
Deafness occurs in 25% of people who survive the disease, hearing may return partially after one to three months.
Hair loss and gait disturbance may occur (WHO 2016) .
This disease is severe in pregnant women in late pregnancy such that maternal death and loss of the baby occurs in 80% of the cases (WHO 2016).
If experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is important you visit the nearest hospital.
Prevention and Control and Treatment
It may sometimes be difficult to distinguish between Lassa fever and the other Viral Haemorrhagic fevers such as such as Ebola Virus Disease, other diseases it may be difficult to distinguish from includes; Typhoid fever, Malaria, Shigellosis and Yellow fever.
Promoting Good community hygiene is essential to discourage rodents from entering homes (WHO 2016).
Storing grains and foodstuffs in rodent proof bags and containers.
Safe burial practices (WHO 2016)
Family members should be avoid contact with blood or body fluids when caring for their sick (WHO 2016)
In health care settings standard infection prevention and control precautions should be applied (WHO 2016)
There is currently no vaccine that protects against Lassa Fever. The antiviral drug, Rivabirin if given in the early course of the illness seems to be effective (WHO 2016).
I request all Chairmen of PSN State branches and Technical Groups to use the material and educate the public.
Yours in service to humanity,
Pharm. Ahmed I Yakasai FPSN, FNIM, FNAPharm
President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria
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