Can Lassa virus kill you? Learn more about its new outbreak in Nigeria. Find out how it gets transmitted so you can avoid it.
New Year celebration in Nigeria this year was marred by the possible outbreak of Lassa fever in Rivers State and its capital Port Harcourt. Several people have died on the New Year eve and on the first day of 2016 supposedly being infected and diseased by Lassa fever. Presently over 60 people are hospitalized and watched for the symptoms of this deadly fever.
What is the scientific name for Lassa Fever?
The official medical name for the disease is LHF which stands for Lassa hemorrhagic fever. This liniment is pretty similar to Ebola virus, which has caused many deaths back in 2014 during its latest outbreak in Africa and in the world.
Who discovered Lassa Fever?
Nigeria is thought to be the home land of this deadly virus. It was discovered there back in 1969 in the Borno State and in Lassa town. That is how the disease has gotten its name.
The virus was discovered first by the epidemiologist Jordi Casals-Ariet. He got infected and barely survived the illness back in 1969. This doctor has detected the virus in the blood of several nurses, who came back from West Africa.
He and his team studied the virus and few of the workers at the lab got infected. One of them even died, but Jordi Casals-Ariet survived. Further examinations of the Lassa fever were carried out in top security lab at CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in Atlanta, USA.
READ ALSO: What is Ebola?
What is the cause of Lassa Fever?
The fever is caused by virus. The ecology of which is related to rats. They are the main virus carriers and people get primary infection from these rodents and by contacting their body wastes. Arenaviruses is the name of the virus family to which Lassa virus belongs.
How is Lassa fever transmitted?
The virus is transmitted from animals to humans who often times live side to side and share the same premises with rats. The virus can get transmitted by direct contact of damaged or cut skin of the human with rats’ faeces. People can also inhale it with the particles of dust mixed with urine or rat eku asin poo.
Then the virus can be transmitted from human to human through direct contact with body wastes or liquids, such as blood or urine, as well as through scratches, kisses or sexual contacts. It can also be transmitted in the hospitals from patient to patient.
What does Lassa fever do?
During the first few days Lassa fever can be confused by flu, typhoid or malaria. Virus takes pretty long time to develop in the body before it manifests any symptoms. It can actually take up to three weeks to do that. Lassa fever symptoms can be divided into mild and severe.
Mild Lassa virus symptoms:
- Minor fever
Over 80 percent of all the infected persons experience these mild disease manifestations. Due to the fact that people do not seek medical help it becomes hard to evaluate the size of the epidemic. Scientists believe that 100 to 300 thousand cases of Lassa Fever have taken place in the West Africa. However, no one knows for sure.
Severe Lassa Fever symptoms:
- Nose, gum, eyes hemorrhaging
- Swelling of the face
- High fever
- Severe pain in chest or back
Around 20 percent of all the patients experience all or some of these symptoms. The death rate is not high, although doctors consider that this fever has taken the lives of over 5 000 people in West Africa. Plus, the fever can produce various complications, such as deafness.
Lassa fever treatment
The problem with Lassa fever is that it can rarely be timely diagnosed. Once that is done patients can be administered early treatment. Such antiviral drugs as Ribavirin produce positive effects in treating Lassa virus when given during the first week or so after getting infected. Later on patients should be treated accordingly to the symptoms they develop. Unfortunately there is no vaccine suitable to prevent Lassa virus.
Is there a new Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria in 2016?
In the very beginning of the year Prof. Isaac F. Adewole, who is the minister of health has made a statement about this virus. He said that indeed Nigeria has been undergoing a new outbreak of the disease for over 6 weeks by now. And Port Harcourt is not the only place where the trouble is brewed. Presently over 8 states have been affected by the virus.
There are 14 confirmed cases of Lassa Fever with almost 80 suspected cases and 35 deaths possibly caused by the virus. This means Nigerians should be on guard and do everything possible to minimize their contact with rats and their extremists and seek medical help, if they suspect the chance of being infected with the virus.
READ ALSO: Lassa Fever Kills 40 In 10 States.