|When is your next visit to West Africa? Home of Lassa virus, the chair culprit of the Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF). A skim through this piece could keep you abreast of some tips about LHF in a jiffy.|
Lassa virus (LV) is a single stranded enveloped double segmented RNA virus. These terms are biological terms, it tells more of the chemical, physical and microscopic structure of the virus rather than what you should really care about.
LV is hosted by rats of the genus Mastomys which makes the disease a zoonotic one – a disease transmissible from animal to man – and make its spread common in the tropical regions like Benin, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria. However, reports have shown that other rat species also spread the disease.
Humans usually become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to urine, feaces or bodily fluids of infected Mastomys rats. Unlike SARS or the common cold, LHF isn’t airborne. It does not spread between humans even though person-to-person transmission occurs in both community and health-care settings.
One amazing fact is that LV could be sexually transmitted.
Surprised? Don’t be.
Read on as I dish out more facts for you!
How would you know if someone has LASSA FEVER?
Like any other fever, LHF becomes observable from day 6 up to day 21 from the day of first infection. However, there is good news as up to 70-80% of those infected with LV don’t usually come down with LHF; this is when they are said to be asymptomatic.
When LHF is symptomatic, it progresses gradually with fever, weakness, and malaise. After a few days, it advances with headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, and abdominal pain may also follow.
1 in 5 infections result in severe disease, where the virus affects several organs such as the liver, spleen and kidneys. In severe cases there could be gastrointestinal, vaginal or respiratory tract bleeding.
How is LHF Diagnosed?
There are many similarities in the fever of LHF and other diseases like Shigellosis (typhoid), Ebola, Yellow fever and a number of others. These similarities are used for investigating and detecting the virus in the laboratory. The principle for detection is based on basic immunology, PCR and ELISA .
What role can I play?
Definitely not-hard one but an important one!
You need to maintain a near-perfect practice of hygiene. You don’t want to keep any form of rats as there are evidences that other non-mastomys rats also transmit the infection.
Since there are no evidences that cats could transmit the virus, experts have recommended biological control of rats with carnivorous cats as other rodents-control method could expose the household to fluids from dead rats.
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