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Home Health & Wellbeing Expert Speaks on Lassa Fever
Health & WellbeingTrending News

Expert Speaks on Lassa Fever

A consultant physician and gastroenterologist in Internal Medicine at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State- Dr Nnenna Ajayi.

The head of clinical services at the virology centre and Chairman of Lassa fever committee in the hospital talks to ALEXANDER OKERE about the recent cases of Lassa fever in some states in the country.

It is an infection caused by a virus, the Lassa virus, and it manifests with fever, body pain, a general feeling of being unwell. It is endemic to West Africa. And in West Africa, some countries are affected more than others. Nigeria is one of the major countries affected. Other countries affected include Liberia and Sierra Leone, Guinea.

There are other West African countries but the ones mentioned are the main areas affected. In Nigeria, some states are notable for Lassa fever infection. They include Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi states.

It is difficult to say. But we know there are several things that affect the distribution of diseases. The Lassa virus is transmitted from animal to man and the multi-mammate rat is the reservoir of the virus. So, it means that rat has to be in that environment before the virus would be available to be transmitted to people.

Apart from the states that are remarkably affected by Lassa fever, the infection has involved almost every state in Nigeria. Cases have been reported in Benue, Kano, Bauchi and Plateau states.

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Of course, the virus was named after a village (Lassa, in Borno State) in North-East, Nigeria. That was the first place it came to the limelight. But it occurs everywhere now.

First, the virus has to move from the animal reservoir to man and it can also spread from person to person. From the animal reservoir, it is when man comes in contact with the blood or other body fluid (blood and respiratory secretions) of the multi-mam-mate rat that infection can occur.

This can also occur during the hunting of the rat, while preparing the rat as a meal or when the rat invades human abode and contaminates food. Sometimes, in some houses, doors may not be properly closed; there may be holes on the walls, through which the rat can gain access. If food is not properly covered, the rats can eat the food and, in the process, deposit some of their infected secretion on the food.

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When people eat such food, which is already contaminated, the virus enters their body. When the virus enters the human population, people who come in contact with the body fluid (blood, fluid from the nose or saliva from the mouth) of an infected person can be infected.

Lassa fever can be transmitted sexually because seminal and virginal fluids are also forms of body fluid. Transmission can also occur through a wound on the skin and serum exuding from such wound can carry the virus.

It can also be transmitted from mother to child; a pregnant woman who has the virus can transmit it to her child.
Lassa fever can cause sore throat and redness of the eyes.

It can also cause altered censorious, bleeding from body orifices and it is actually an illness that can affect every system of the body. It can manifest in a lot of things, including diarrhea and vomiting.

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The authorities have to help the hospital workers by providing all that is necessary to practice appropriate infection prevention and control. When medical workers have patients before them, sometimes, the urge to save lives may override personal safety.

So, we still have to keep reminding ourselves and, hopefully, we won’t record death of medical personnel while handling Lassa fever patients again.

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