Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses. It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with rodent excreta. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa. It is an infectious rat-borne disease. Its characterised by fever, inflammation, muscular pains and difficulty in swallowing.
The host of Lassa virus is a rodent known as Multimammate rat of the genus Mastomys. It is not certain which species of Mastomys are associated with Lassa; however, at least two species carry the virus. Mastomys rodents breed very frequently, produce large numbers of offspring, and are numerous in West, central and East Africa. Some species prefer to live in human homes. All these factors together, contribute to the relatively efficient spread of the Lassa virus from infected rodents to humans.
The following symptoms would be noticed if a person is infected with the Lassa virus
- Sore throat
- Dry cough
- Back pain
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Severe chest pain
- Heart rate changes
- Swollen neck, face and eyes.
- Maculopapular rash
- Abdominal pain.
The following are some of the latest treatments for Lassa fever,
- Patient Isolation: The segregation of patients with communicable or other diseases for a specified time. Isolation may be strict, in which movement and social contacts are limited; modified, where an effort to control specified aspects of care is made in order to prevent cross infection; or reverse, where the patient is secluded in a controlled germ-free environment in order to protect him or her from cross infection.
- RIBAVIRIN: Ribavirin, an antiviral drug, has been used with success in Lassa fever patients. It has been shown to be most effective when given early in the course of the illness. Patients should also receive supportive care consisting of maintenance of appropriate fluid and electrolyte balance, oxygenation and blood pressure, as well as treatment of any other complicating infections.