Lassa fever has been making headlines for the past few days and some have erroneously referred to it as a kind of Ebola. While they are both caused by viruses, Lassa fever is not Ebola. Here are eight things you should know about the illness.
- Lassa fever occurs in West Africa, particularly Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
- The virus is named after the town in Borno State, Nigeria where it was first identified in 1969.
- a) Primary transmission of Lassa fever is from the host Mastomys natalensis (common African rat) to humans. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with waste of the rats or eating food contaminated with the waste materials, or through cuts or sores. b) 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.
- Lassa fever cannot be spread through casual contact without exchange of bodily fluids.
- Lassa fever can manifest differently, with significantly varying symptoms and can sometimes be incorrectly diagnosed as malaria or typhoid. First symptoms usually occur 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus; starting with fever, general weakness, and malaise followed by headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and bleeding from mouth, nose, vagina or gastro-intestinal tract, and low blood pressure.
- People most at risk of getting Lassa fever are those who live in areas with high population of Mastomys n. (common African rat) infected with Lassa virus.
- The most common complication of Lassa fever is deafness.
- There is no vaccine available for Lassa fever.