A Must Read! How To Prevent Lassa Fever Infection

According to the WHO, Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses and was first described in 1969 in the town of Lassa, in Borno State, Nigeria. 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. Lassa fever frequently infects people in West Africa resulting in 300,000 to 500,000 cases annually and causes about 5,000 deaths each year.


The possibility of person-to-person infections with about 80% of the cases being asymptomatic and laboratory transmission makes it a very dangerous disease, particularly in the hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control measures. Thus the marked importance of educating the entire populace of the presence of this awaiting time bomb present amidst us.


The signs and symptoms of Lassa fever commonly happen 4-21 days after post infection with the virus. For most of those with a Lassa fever virus infection; around 80%, symptoms are mild and under-diagnosed. Mild symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Slight fever
  • General illness
  • Around 20% of infected people; however, the disease might progress to more serious symptoms that include haemorrhaging of the person’s eyes, gums, or nose – repeated vomiting, respiratory distress, pain in the back, chest and abdomen, facial swelling and shock. Neurological issues have also been described in relation to Lassa fever, to include tremors, hearing loss and encephalitis. An infected person may die within two weeks of their initial symptoms because of multi-organ failure.


  • The most common complication of Lassa fever is deafness. Different degrees of deafness happen in around one-third of those who become infected. In many cases, the hearing loss is permanent. The severity of the disease does not affect this particular complication; deafness might develop in mild as well as severe cases.
  • Between 15-20% of people who are hospitalized for Lassa fever die from the illness. Only 1% of all Lassa virus infections; however, result in the person’s death. The death rates for women in the third trimester of pregnancy are exceptionally high. Spontaneous abortion is a very serious complication of the infection; an estimated 95% mortality rate in foetuses of infected mothers is an alarm sounding off. Due to the fact that the symptoms of Lassa fever are so non-specific and varied, clinical diagnosis is often times difficult. Lassa fever is also associated with occasional epidemics. During these epidemics, the fatality rate may reach as high as 50% in people who become hospitalized.


The good thing about this very disease is that it is preventable. Prevention of Lassa fever in the community is first about shutting out the reservoir host. Thus, the importance of good hygiene. Here are some more measures to keep in place:


  • Avoid contact between rats and human beings;
  • Keep your house and Environment clean
  • Cover all foods and water properly.
  • Cook all foods thoroughly
  • Store foodstuffs in rodent proof containers
  • Block all rat hideouts
  • If you suspect that rat has eaten any food, discard it
  • In endemic environments the use of face masks, hand gloves and contact with affected persons should also be avoided.


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