Lassa Fever Alert: Delta Govt. Warns Residents To Keep Off Rats   *7 Things To Know About The Deadly Viral Illness

Nigeria (Blank NEWS Online) By Albert OGRAKA– 
The Delta state Government has warned residents in the state of the current spread of Lassa Fever disease is in parts of Nigeria.

In separate statements, the Delta State Ministry of Information and the Office of the Senior Special Assistant (Special Duties) to Delta State Governor on Orientation and Social Development (SSA-OSD) have respectively advised on prompt report of any suspected case of Lassa Fever to the nearest hospital or health centre for timely professional care.

A statement made available to Blank NEWS Online by the state Ministry of Information on Saturday, January, 09, 2015 reads:

“It is hereby announced for the information of the general public particularly residents of Delta State that the disease called Lassa Fever is fast spreading in parts of the country.

“Recently, many persons have been affected in Bauchi, Nassarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo States and there have been reported cases of death of infected persons.

“Lassa fever is caused by a virus. It can be transmitted to human through contamination of broken skin via direct or indirect contact with infected rat excreta or urine on floors, home surfaces, in food or water. Transmission is also possible where rats are caught and consumed as food.

“Person to person transmission occurs through infected bodily fluids, such as blood, saliva, urine, excreta or semen.

“For the avoidance of doubt, early signs of Lassa fever include Cold and Fever, Headache, Body Pains and Sore Throat. Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea or Cough may also occur. Severe cases manifest with swelling of the face and bleeding.

“Prevention of the disease is very important. Residents are advised to avoid direct contact with rats and their excreta or urine. They are also to keep or store food in rat proof containers.

“It is also important that residents avoid contact with bodily fluids of an infected patient to prevent persons to persons spread of the disease by the use of gloves and regular hand washing. Burial of victims must be carried out under strict hygiene conditions.

“Health workers are advised to strengthen the practice of infection control in all public and private health facilities in the state.

“Residents are advised to promptly report to the nearest hospital or health centre any suspected case of Lassa Fever for timely professional care.

“For more information residents are advised to call 08037857479.”

In a similar development, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant (Special Duties) to Delta State Governor on Orientation and Social Development (SSA-OSD) has also embarked on regular SMS and Social Media alerts to all Deltans to be wary of the recent outbreak of the Lassa Fever in parts of the country.

“Dear Deltans, Lassa Fever Alert. 40 Persons Dead across Nigeria. Keep off RATS. Keep environment clean. Report suspicion to nearest Govt. Hospital. –SSA-OSD.”

Lassa Fever: 7 Things You Should Know About The Deadly Viral Illness.
Compiled By Albert OGRAKA on behalf of SSA-OSD

1. Lassa fever is a viral illness
It’s an acute viral illness caused by Lassa virus which was first discovered in Nigeria. Lassa virus is a single-stranded RNA virus that belongs to a family called Arenaviridae. The natural host or reservoir of this virus is a rodent known as the ‘multimammate’ rat that belongs to the mastomys genus. It’s been observed that mastomys rats breed very frequently and readily colonise homes, hence the easy spread of this zoonotic virus from infected rodents to unsuspecting humans.

2. Lassa fever is quite common in West Africa
Lassa virus infections are common enough in West Africa to warrant public health concern. Averagely, about 300000 cases are recorded each year with 5000 deaths. Unfortunately, the present Lassa epidemic in Nigeria has already spanned 7 states and affected at least 150 people with 7 casualties already reported.

3. How is Lassa virus spread to humans?
Humans can contract the virus when they come in contact, directly or indirectly with the urine and droppings from infected rats or by breathing in tiny particles from air that has been contaminated with rodent excretions. Some humans who eat infected rodents can equally contract the virus. Lastly, if adequate precautions are not taken, care givers who handle or treat infected persons can contract the virus from contaminated blood, tissues, secretions or excretions of such patients. However, it cannot be spread through casual skin-to-skin contacts, provided there are no cuts or bruises.

4. Lassa fever usually produces symptoms
Lassa virus has an incubation period of 1 – 3 weeks following which signs and symptoms of the infection emerge. Initially, non-specific symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, back pain, abdominal pain or pain behind the chest wall may be felt as well as vomiting, diarrhoea and facial swelling. As the disease progresses, mucosal bleeding and bleeding from body orifices may follow.

5. Lassa fever can be treated
Provided the affected person presents early enough and prompt diagnosis of Lassa fever is made, an antiviral agent called Ribavirin has been shown to be quite effective in reducing morbidity and mortality from the disease. In addition to ribavirin administration, supportive treatment may also be given to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance as well as the blood pressure.

6. Untreated Lassa fever often results in death
It was estimated that 15 – 30% of patients who are admitted for Lassa fever end up dying from the illness. Moreover, death rates are even higher for pregnant women, especially those in the third trimester and their unborn babies. Sadly, mortality rates in the latter group sometimes approach 95%. Furthermore, up to one-third of Lassa fever survivors may suffer from varying degrees of hearing loss which may be permanent.

7. Lassa fever is better prevented
Prevention is better than cure. Since no vaccine has been developed yet for Lassa virus infection, people must employ every possible means to avoid contact with rodents and infected people. Our homes must be kept clean and rodent-free, foods should be stored in rodent-proof containers. Health care givers must practise barrier nursing methods such as isolation of infected patients and consistent use of face masks, gloves, gowns and goggles when attending to such patients.

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Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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