LASSA FEVER

  • Recently, three persons diagnosed with Lassa fever in the UK died. The cases have been linked to travel to west African countries.
  • The Lassa fever-causing virus is found in West Africa and was first discovered in 1969 in Lassa, Nigeria.
  • The fever is spread by rats and is primarily found in countries in West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria where it is endemic.
  • Matomys rats has the potential to spread the deadly Lassa virus.
  • The death rate associated with this disease is low, at around 1%. But the death rate is higher for certain individuals, such as pregnant women in their third trimester.
  • According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, about 80% of the cases are asymptomatic and therefore remain undiagnosed.
  • A person can become infected if they come in contact with household items of food that is contaminated with the urine or feces of an infected rat (zoonotic disease).
  • It can also be spread, though rarely, if a person comes in contact with a sick person’s infected bodily fluids or through mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or the mouth.
  • Person-to-person transmission is more common in healthcare settings.

Symptoms:

  • Mild symptoms include slight fever, fatigue, weakness and headache.
  • Serious symptoms include bleeding, difficulty breathing, vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen and shock.
  • Death can occur from two weeks of the onset of symptoms, usually as a result of multi-organ failure.
  • The antiviral drug ribavirin seems to be an effective treatment for Lassa fever if given early on in the course of clinical illness.

SOURCE: THE HINDU,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MINT

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