Lassa Fever- Things You Should Know

Lassa fever is a dangerous disease that affects the human body. It is caused by Lassa Fever virus that is carried by Multimammate rat (rat that has many breasts). It was named after a village called Lassa in Borno State. It has been found in other States in Nigeria.

Lassa Fever disease occurs throughout the year but it is more common during the dry season.

How does Lassa Fever Spread?

Lassa fever is spread by:

  •  Eating food or drinking water contaminated with urine, feaces, saliva or blood of rat
  •  Direct contact with urine, feaces, saliva or blood of rat
  • Touching of floors, bedding and household materials contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of rat or infected person
  • Inhalation of air contaminated with tiny particles of urine, faeces, saliva or blood of rat or infected person
  • Person-person through contact with blood, urine, tissue, saliva, throat secretion or semen of infected human through cuts or sores

Who can be infected?

  • Everyone of all age groups who came in contact with the urine, feces, saliva or blood of rat.
  • Family members who are taking care of persons infected with Lassa Fever
  •  Health workers: Doctors or Nurses providing direct patient care, Hospital staff who clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces, materials and supplies, Laboratory staff who handle blood samples from the suspected Lassa Fever cases
  •   Medical or support staff who prepare or handle the dead bodies of Lassa Fever patients.

What is the incubation period?

Signs and symptoms of the fever generally appear 1 to 2 days after contact with the Lassa Fever virus.

  • What are the signs and symptoms
  • The disease usually starts with fever and general weakness. The signs and symptoms are: High fever, Cough, Vomiting,  Diarrhea, Sore throat, Rashes, Back pain, Stomach pain, Restlessness, Red eye (conjunctivitis),  Pain behind the chest wall, Swelling of the face, and  Bleeding through body openings (nose, eye, mouth etc).

What is the treatment for Lassa Fever Disease? 

  • Lassa Fever can be treated using Ribavirin if detected and treatment is given early. So far,there’s no vaccine for Lassa fever.

What should I do to help prevent the spread of Lassa fever?

Inform family members, neighbours and friends (through mosques, churches, schools and market places) about the dangers and how to prevent Lassa Fever disease such as by:

  • Avoiding contact with rats (dead or alive)
  • Removing dead rat from the surrounding safely by wearing gloves to avoid direct contact with the urine, blood, saliva or feces of rats.
  • Not spreading food items along the roadside
  •  Discarding all foods (cooked or raw) partly eaten by rats
  • String raw food items inside covered containers
  • Protecting cooked food and water from contamination by urine, feces, saliva or blood of rat
  • Washing fruits and vegetables with clean water before eating
  • Keeping the house and surrounding clean to reduce rat infestation through; – Blocking all holes around your house -Clearing all bushes around your surrounding -Disposing refuse into covered dustbin -Setting traps around the house -Keeping cats at home -Fumigation of the surrounding

For further information, please contact:

Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja or call 08128817393

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