Lassa fever | What you need to know.


Hello people! We weren’t going to post anything till Saturday but I heard about this Lassa fever yesterday and thought I should say a couple of things about it. What’s the point of being a Doctor if I can’t help/educate people. I remember hearing about Lassa fever during one of the lectures when I was in LUTH for the MDCN assessment program. It was grouped with Ebola virus disease  under the topic ‘viral hemorrhagic disease’. 

First, let me quickly write a bit about Lassa fever.  It belongs to the Arenavirus family of viruses. It is an RNA virus, round, pleomorphic, 50-300nm. Lassa fever was first isolated in 1969 in Nigeria. It is endemic in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. About 1046 cases with 32 deaths were reported between 01/01/13 – 12/08/13 in Nigeria. Most (85%) cases were from Edo state. It affects all age groups and both sexes. 

How is Lassa fever transmitted? 

1. Rodents (Rats) to human 

– Inhalation of aerosolised virus 

– ingestion of food or materials contaminated by infected rodent excreta. 

– Catching and preparing Mastomys as food. 

2. Human to human 

– Direct contact with blood, tissues , secretions and excretions of infected humans. 

– Needle stick injury or cut. 

Incubation period ( that is from the time you get infected to the time you start showing symptoms) – 6-21 days

Symptoms – It starts with gradual onset of fever, headache, malaise, weakness. Then, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomitting, diarrhea, cough and abdominal pain may follow few days later. Bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina and gastrointestinal tract may occur in severe cases. 



– Avoid areas with rats and if said ‘area’ is your house, trap and kill rodents. 

– Avoid exposing your food. 

– Proper storage of food in rodent proof containers. 

– Clean your house (inside and outside) 

– Avoid eating rats/bush rats. 

– If you’re caring for any sick person, avoid contact with blood and body fluids of the person.

Health care workers need to be extremely careful!!

It can be treated with Ribavirin which is contraindicated  in pregnant women. (Cannot be given to them) 

I read today in Punch newspaper that ‘The Federal Government has put the number of reported cases of Lassa Fever outbreak in eight states at 76 with 35 deaths already recorded and 14 cases confirmed by laboratories.’ The minister  of health Prof Isaac Adewole spoke about it and ‘According to him, Nigeria has been experiencing Lassa fever outbreak in the past six weeks in Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo and Oyo states.’ 

Read more  Here

You can also read the  WHO factsheet on Lassa fever

Educate yourself, your family members and friends. Let’s all stay safe so we can all enjoy this new year together!



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