What is Lassa fever?

One of three people diagnosed with Lassa fever in the UK died on February 11. The cases have been linked to travel to countries in West Africa. The Lassa virus is named after a town in Nigeria where the first cases were discovered.

The mortality rate associated with this disease is low, at around 1%. But the death rate is higher for some people, such as pregnant women in the third trimester. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, around 80% of cases are asymptomatic and therefore go undiagnosed. Some patients may require hospitalization and develop severe multisystem disease. Fifteen percent of hospitalized patients can die.

What is Lassa fever, how is it spread and what are its symptoms?

The virus responsible for Lassa fever is found in West Africa and was first discovered in 1969 in Lassa, Nigeria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Pollution (CDC). The discovery of this disease was made after the death of two nurses in Nigeria.

The fever is transmitted by rats and is mainly found in West African countries, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria, where it is endemic.

A person can become infected if they come into contact with household food contaminated with the urine or feces of an infected rat. It can also be spread, although rarely, if a person comes into contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids or through mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth. Person-to-person transmission is more common in healthcare settings.

Even so, people generally do not become contagious until symptoms appear and cannot spread infection through casual contact, such as hugging, shaking hands, or sitting near someone. infected.

Symptoms usually appear 1 to 3 weeks after exposure. Mild symptoms include mild fever, fatigue, weakness and headache and more severe symptoms include bleeding, difficulty breathing, vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back and stomach. abdomen and a state of shock.

Death can occur as early as two weeks after the onset of symptoms, usually from multiple organ failure. The CDC notes that the most common complication associated with fever is deafness. Nearly a third of those infected report varying degrees of deafness. In many cases, hearing loss can be permanent. Significantly, deafness can occur in both mild and severe presentations of fever.

The best way to avoid getting infected is to avoid contact with rats. This means avoiding contact with rats not only in places where the disease is endemic, but also maintaining hygiene in other areas to prevent rats from entering the house, keeping food in containers rat test and set rat traps, advises the CDC.

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