Lassa fever, cause, symptoms, prevention and treatments….

Lassa fever virus also known as hemorrhagic fever is caused by lassa virus. This virus is commonly spread to humans from animals specifically rodents known as the natal multimammate mouse or African rat found mainly in west central and eastern part of Africa.

Record has it that about 100,000 to three million people suffer yearly from lassa fever and about about 5,000 death per year are recorded only in West Africa


The lassa virus is a member of the arena virus, it is a single stranded enveloped RNA virus with both large and small genome sequences. 
Mode of transmission:
This multimammate rodent has the ability to reproduce very fast and as a result, there is an increased chance of contact with humans. An infected rodent has the ability to spread the virus through urine and and feces throughout its life time.  Humans can get infected with this virus through direct or indirect contact with the infected rodent excrement both through the gastrointestinal tract and the respiratory tract. Modes in which this virus can be contracted includes:
  • Through inhalation of tiny particles of infectious material. This is believed to be the most significant means of exposure to the virus
  • It has recently been believed that the virus can also be transmitted from an infested person to a healthy person. The virus remain active in the urine of an infected patient for up to three weeks and can also be transmitted in the semen for up to three months of infection meaning that it can sexually be transmitted from an infected host to a healthy human.
  • There is also a great tendency of acquiring the virus through mucous membrane as well as broken skin when they are directly exposed to an infectious material.
  • If a healthy human consumes grains that has been contaminated by excrement (urine or feces) of infested mouse without properly processing it, the virus will be transmitted from the food to the human through the gastrointestinal tract. 
Symptoms:
Lassa fever virus has an incubation period of 6 to 21 days after which the symptoms will begin to emanate. The symptoms can either be asymptomatic or symptomatic. The virus appears to have effect on many organs in the human body which begins to take course after the incubation period. Aside the manifestation in the organs, there are also non specific symptoms some of which include; fever, headache, conjunctivitis, mucosal bleeding, muscle fatigue, facial swelling, amongst others. Symptoms emanating from infected organs includes: 
Nervous system: Symptoms in the nervous system includes; Meningitis, seizure, hearing deficit, encephalitis, amongst others. 
Cardiovascular system: These includes; hyper/hypotension, pericarditis, abnormally high heart beat rate, amongst others. 
Gastrointestinal tract: They involves; vomiting of blood, blood in the stool, nausea, dysphagia, hypertension, hepatitis, constipation, amongst others. 
Respiratory tract: The include; Pharyngitis, pleuritis, cough, chest pain, amongst others.
Early symptoms of this infection may include; nausea, abdominal pain, intermittent moderate to severe cramping, vomiting, muscle ache, facial swelling, amongst others.
Mode of prevention:
Prevention of lassa fever is first by keeping the rodents away from the home. This is because it may somehow be impractical to try and reduce the populations of the rodents. As a result of this little challenge, it is quite expedient to keep clean environment void of possible breeding zone for rodents. In addition to this measure, ensure to keep grains and other foodstuff in rodent proof containers. Disposing off garbage is also another step towards keeping your environment free from rodents. In cases of those dealing with infected persons, the use of gloves, goggles, boots and other protective gadgets is highly recommendable.

Treatments:
Treatment of lassa fever is more effective when it is discovered early. The use of Ribavirin as pioneered by Joe McCormick as far back 1979 through early and aggressive treatment has been discovered to be a critical success. Though Ribavirin is effective when taken orally, but it is twice as effective when taken intravenously. The only hitches in the use of ribavirin is it expensive nature. Scientist are still researching on other possible medications for treatments. Even though there is an option of ribavirin, it is advisable to first quarantine any lassa fever suspected victim before commencement of treatment just to be sure they are kept away from healthy persons.

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