After COVID, Lassa fever is taking its toll. Know its symptoms, causes and treatment
As we continue to deal with the ongoing COVID pandemic, three people in the UK have recently been diagnosed with Lassa fever. Of the three, one died. According to the WHO, Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease caused by the Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus, which lasts between 2 and 21 days. People are usually infected with this virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with the urine or feces of infected rats. The Lassa virus is named after a town in Nigeria where the first cases were detected in 1969.
Lassa fever is endemic in the rodent population of parts of West Africa, such as Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Nigeria.
Symptoms of Lassa fever
Symptoms of Lassa fever usually appear 1 to 3 weeks after exposure. Usually they are mild and undiagnosed. Fever, fatigue, weakness, and headaches are some of the symptoms people face.
However, in 20% of those infected, the disease can progress to more severe symptoms, including bleeding, difficulty breathing, repeated vomiting, swelling of the face, hemorrhage (in the gums, eyes or nose), pain in the chest, back and abdomen. . Neurological problems including hearing loss, tremors and encephalitis have also been described.
Death in a few cases, after two weeks of symptoms, generally due to multi-organ failure.
Lassa fever: treatment
The only way to avoid getting infected with the Lassa virus is to avoid contact with rats and also places where the disease is endemic. Maintaining hygiene and cleanliness in the home and elsewhere is also important. Keeping rats out of the house and storing food in rat-proof containers can be a great way to protect yourself from Lassa virus.
The virus can also spread through an infected person’s bodily fluids or mucous membranes, so either wear a mask or avoid contact with such a person.
(With CDC contributions)