Tuesday 12 January 2016



Lassa fever is an acute viral illness that occurs in west Africa. The illness was first discovered in 1969 when two missionary nurses died in Nigeria. The virus is named after the town in Nigeria where the first cases occurred. The Lassa virus is a single stranded RNA virus and it is animal borne, its animal vector being the "multimammate rat" (Mastomys natalensis).


Humans come in contact with lassa virus either through ingesting or inhaling lassa virus contaminated material. The Mastomys rat shed the lassa virus in Urine and excretory droppings and direct contact with these materials through touching soiled objects, eating contaminated food or exposure to open cuts and wounds can lead to infection. Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces or other bodily secretions of a person infected with lassa fever.


Lassa virus has an incubation period of about 6 - 21 days. The onset of the disease when symptomatic is usually gradual, starting with fever, general weakness and malaise. After a few days, headache, sore throat, muscle aches and pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough and abdominal pain may follow. In severe cases facial swelling, fluid in the lung cavity, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure may develop. Shock, seizures, tremor, disorientation and coma may be seen in the later stages. Death occurs within 14 days of onset in fatal cases. 

Lassa fever disease is especially severe in late pregnancy, with maternal death and/or fetal loss ocurring in greater than 80% of cases during the third trimester.


Individuals are greatest risk of exposure if they live in or visit areas endemic to Lasaa fever and have exposure to the multimammate rat. Nigeria is considered as an endemic area of Lasaa fever disease.


The following advice would prove helpful in preventing and controlling the spread of Lasaa fever

  • Avoid close contact with rodents as this is the primary means of contracting the Lasaa virus
  • Store food in rodent proof containers and keep the home clean regularly.Use disinfectants often.
  • Dispose of garbage far away from your home.
  • Set rodent traps so as to quickly get rid of rat infestation in the house and handle rodent droppings with extra caution.
  • Do not eat rodent meat in whatever form as a delicacies.
  • Do not or drink directly from canned drinks and foods as rodents frequent contaminate their aluminium sealing at point of storage. Before consuming canned products, wash them properly and pour out their contents into a glass cup (if its canned drink) or dish (if its canned food) before consuming.
  • While caring for sick ones in the family with Lassa fever, carefully avoid contact with blood and body fluids. You can do this by wearing protective gloves, masks, gowns and face masks. Also disinfect the home frequently.
  • Use hand sanitizers quite often when in public places. A lot of people can be carriers of the LASSA FEVER virus without showing symtoms.


The only known effective treatment for Lassa fever is the antiviral drug Ribavirin. Do make sure you report any case of persistent and unexplained fever to the hospital immediately.


(1) Center for Disease Control and prevention USA

(2) World health Organization Media center

To learn more about Lasaa fever prevention and control send us an email at hyphenpharmacy@gmail.com

Click HERE to equip your home and work place with first aid necessary to keep you healthy and safe. 

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