In order to win the fight against Lassa fever, awareness on the disease and knowledge of how to protect ourselves is important. Lassa fever has claimed a lot of lives since its outbreak and we cant afford to lose any more lives. The reservoir, or host, of Lassa virus is a rodent known as the “multimammate rat” of the genus Mastomys. It is not certain which species of Mastomys are associated with Lassa. Mastomys rodents breed very frequently and produce large numbers of offspring.
Infected rat with multiple breasts (multimammate)
There are a number of ways in which the virus may be transmitted, or spread, to humans. The Mastomys rodents shed the virus in urine and droppings. Therefore, the virus can be transmitted through direct contact with these materials, through touching objects or eating food contaminated with these materials, or through cuts or sores. Because Mastomys rodents often live in and around homes and scavenge on human food remains or poorly stored food, transmission of this sort is common. These Mastomys rodents are sometimes consumed as a food source, infection may occur via direct contact when they are caught and prepared for food. Lassa fever may also spread through person-to-person contact. This type of transmission occurs when a person comes into contact with virus in the blood, tissue, secretions, or excretions of an individual infected with the Lassa virus. The virus cannot be spread through casual contact (including skin-to-skin contact without exchange of body fluids).
Signs and symptoms of Lassa fever typically occur 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus. These include fever, retrosternal pain (pain behind the chest wall), sore throat, back pain, cough, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, facial swelling, proteinuria (protein in the urine), and mucosal bleeding. Neurological problems have also been described, including hearing loss, tremors, and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
The most common complication of Lassa fever is deafness. Various degrees of deafness occur in approximately one-third of cases, and in many cases hearing loss is permanent. Spontaneous abortion is another serious complication.
Lassa fever can be prevented by avoiding contact with Mastomys rodents, especially in the geographic regions where outbreaks occur, putting food away in rodent-proof containers and keeping the home clean.Using these rodents as a food source is also not recommended. Safety precautions like wearing protective clothing, sterilizing equipment and isolation of infected people should be taken when caring for infected people.
- Lassa fever – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Lassa Fever | CDC