What is Lassa fever, its symptoms and its treatment?

Lassa fever: The UK faces another health risk which is mainly linked to travelers from West African countries and the disease is called Lassa fever. On February 11, one in three people were diagnosed with Lassa fever. The death rate is said to be one percent now, but in some people like pregnant women in the third trimester, the risks are high.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, around 80% of cases are asymptomatic and therefore go undiagnosed. Some of the patients may need to be hospitalized and develop various multisystem diseases. 15% of hospitalized patients can die.

What is Lassa fever?

According to the CDC, Lassa fever is an acute viral illness of animal or zoonotic origin. It is endemic in parts of West Africa, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. In 1969, it was first discovered in Lassa, Nigeria. The disease was discovered after the deaths of two nurses in Nigeria. Lassa fever is transmitted by rats. The animal vector of the Lassa virus is the “multimammary rat” (Mastomys natalensis).

How is it transmitted?

Transmission of the Lassa virus to humans is mainly by ingestion or inhalation. Infection occurs when Mastomys rodents excrete the virus in urine, feces, and through direct contact with these materials, by touching soiled objects, eating contaminated food, or exposing themselves to open cuts. Rarely, it can be spread if a person comes into contact with infected bodily fluids from a sick person through mucous membranes, including the eyes, nose, or mouth. Person-to-person transmission is said to be more common in healthcare settings.

Sometimes Mastomys rodents are eaten as a food source and infection can occur when the rodents are caught and prepared. A person is also contacted by the virus when they inhale tiny particles in air contaminated with excreta from infected rodents. During clean-up activities, this aerosol or airborne transmission can occur as sweeping.

When do the symptoms appear?

Usually, people do not become contagious until symptoms appear and cannot transmit infection through casual contact such as hugging, shaking hands, or sitting near an infected person. Typically, symptoms appear one to three weeks after exposure.

What are the symptoms of Lassa fever?

Mild symptoms are:

Slight fever

General malaise and weakness


Serious symptoms include;

Hemorrhage of the gums, eyes or nose, for example.

Respiratory distress

Repeated vomiting

facial swelling

Pain in the chest, back and abdomen

Shock, etc.

Neurological problems can also occur, including;

Hearing loss

tremors and


Within two weeks, death can also occur after the onset of symptoms due to multiple organ failure.

The most common complication of this fever is deafness. It can develop in both mild and severe cases.

Lassa fever: treatment

According to the CDC, ribavirin, which is an antifungal drug, has been used in patients with Lassa fever. If given early, it will be effective during the course of the disease. Along with treatment, the patient should take supportive care including proper fluid, electrolyte balance, oxygenation, etc. Also, the treatment of any other complicated infections.

Source: cc

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