Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF), is a viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus, which has been identified in parts of West Africa.
This disease was first reported in the city of Lassa, located in Borno State in the northwestern region of Nigeria.
At this time, there are approximately 300,000 people that contract this disease each year, with 5% to 10% being fatal cases.
What is Lassa fever?
Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. The disease is endemic in West Africa, where it is responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths each year.
The virus is transmitted to humans through contact with infected rodents, typically through urine or feces. The incubation period for the disease is typically two to three weeks.
Early symptoms include headache, muscle pain, joint pain, fever and sore throat.
As the infection progresses other symptoms may appear including diarrhea (which may be bloody), vomiting blood, confusion, seizures, extreme weakness and difficulty breathing.
There is no vaccine available to prevent the disease but many steps can be taken to reduce risk such as washing hands regularly; avoiding contact with rodent droppings; not eating meat that has not been cooked thoroughly; storing food in sealed containers; clearing brush around houses so rats cannot live there; etc.
Who gets infected with the Lassa virus?
Lassa virus is transmitted to humans through contact with infected rodents, typically the multimammate mouse. People can also become infected by coming into contact with contaminated food or objects.
The virus is then spread from person to person through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or urine. Infected individuals may not show any symptoms for up to 21 days.
Once symptoms appear, they can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, the virus can lead to death.
About half of those who die of Lassa fever die within five days of developing symptoms. However, those who recover usually do so within three weeks.
What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
The signs and symptoms of Lassa fever include fever, weakness, weight loss, headache, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
In severe cases, the disease can lead to bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose. Lassa fever is diagnosed using blood tests and imaging studies.
It cannot be spread from person-to-person. However, individuals who have been exposed to it are at risk for getting it again if they come into contact with an infected rodent or consume contaminated food or drink.
How is Lassa fever diagnosed?
A diagnosis of Lassa fever can be difficult because the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases, such as malaria.
If a person has been in an area where Lassa fever is common and has symptoms of the disease, a blood test can be done to look for the virus. A skin biopsy may also be done.
In some cases, a chest x-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan may be done to look for pneumonia. For pregnant women with Lassa fever, ultrasonography may be done to make sure that the fetus is healthy.
People who have had contact with someone who has Lassa fever should also seek medical attention if they develop a high fever and/or bloody vomit.
A vaccine for Lassa fever does not exist yet but researchers are working on developing one.
It’s possible to prevent infection by avoiding areas where there are known outbreaks of Lassa fever. Pregnant women should avoid these areas.
They should also wear gloves when handling food and wash their hands frequently.
Are there any tests to confirm infection?
If you have symptoms of Lassa fever and have recently been in an area where the virus is common, your doctor will likely order a blood test to confirm infection.
The test looks for antibodies that your body has made in response to the virus. A positive result means you have been infected with Lassa fever.
In addition to signs and symptoms described above, a person who is severely ill may also have bleeding from their nose or mouth, abdominal pain, and rash.
If you are diagnosed with Lassa fever it is important to seek medical care because there are treatments available which can help prevent severe illness or death.
What treatment options are available for patients with this disease?
There is no specific cure for Lassa fever and treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting the patient through the illness.
Treatment options include hydration, rest, pain relief and fever reduction. In severe cases, patients may require oxygen therapy or hospitalization.
Some patients may also require blood transfusions. There is no vaccine available for Lassa fever and the best way to prevent the disease is to avoid contact with rodents or areas where they are known to live.
Travelers should stay in a hotel that provides safe food and water sources, as well as limiting their exposure to rodents.
If someone develops symptoms of Lassa fever it is important to seek medical attention immediately so the doctor can diagnose and treat the condition accordingly.
Is there a vaccine against this disease?
There is no vaccine against Lassa fever, but there are some preventative measures that can be taken. These include avoiding contact with rodents and their urine or feces, practicing good hygiene, and staying up to date on vaccinations.
If you think you may have been exposed to the virus, it is important to seek medical attention immediately as early diagnosis and treatment can improve your chances of recovery.
Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever that is endemic in parts of West Africa. The disease is caused by the Lassa virus, which is transmitted to humans via contact with infected rodents. Symptoms of Lassa fever include fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, the disease can lead to bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose.
Lassa fever can be diagnosed with a blood test or a PCR test. Treatment for the disease includes antibiotics, anticonvulsants and oxygen therapy. If untreated, death occurs in up to one-third of patients who are infected with Lassa fever.
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