Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness, transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated by infected rodents. Person-to-person transmission can also occur, particularly in a hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control measures.
Signs and Symptoms
In 80 percent of cases, the disease is asymptomatic, but in the remaining 20 percent, it takes a complicated course. After an incubation period of six to 21 days, an acute illness with multi-organ involvement develops. Clinical manifestation includes abdominal pain, back pain, chest pain, conjunctivitis, cough, diarrhea, facial swelling, fever, mucosal bleeding, proteinuria, sore throat, and vomiting. Clinically, Lassa fever infections are difficult to distinguish from other viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola and Marburg, and from more common febrile illnesses such as malaria.
Lassa fever can be prevented through practicing good personal hygiene and proper environmental sanitation. Effective measures include storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from home, maintaining clean households, and other measures to discourage rodents from entering homes. Hand washing should frequently be practiced. Health care workers are again reminded that Lassa fever presents initially like any other disease-causing a febrile illness such as malaria; they are advised to practice standard precautions at all times, maintaining a high index of suspicion. Accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment increase the chances of survival.
Treatment of Lassa fever
Ribavirin is an antiviral drug that has been used with success in people affected by Lassa fever. It has been shown to be most effective when it is administered early in the illness. People should also receive supportive care that consists of maintenance of oxygenation, blood pressure, treatment of complicating infections, appropriate fluid, and electrolyte balance.
Health tips are supplied by the AUN Health Center