- 15 Feb 2022
- 2 min read
Why in News?
Recently, three persons diagnosed with Lassa fever in the UK died. The cases have been linked to travel to west African countries.
What is Lassa Fever?
- The Lassa fever-causing virus is found in West Africa and was first discovered in 1969 in Lassa, Nigeria.
- The fever is spread by rats and is primarily found in countries in West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria where it is endemic.
- Matomys rats has the potential to spread the deadly Lassa virus.
- The death rate associated with this disease is low, at around 1%. But the death rate is higher for certain individuals, such as pregnant women in their third trimester.
- According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, about 80% of the cases are asymptomatic and therefore remain undiagnosed.
- A person can become infected if they come in contact with household items of food that is contaminated with the urine or feces of an infected rat (zoonotic disease).
- It can also be spread, though rarely, if a person comes in contact with a sick person’s infected bodily fluids or through mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or the mouth.
- Person-to-person transmission is more common in healthcare settings.
- Mild symptoms include slight fever, fatigue, weakness and headache.
- Serious symptoms include bleeding, difficulty breathing, vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen and shock.
- Death can occur from two weeks of the onset of symptoms, usually as a result of multi-organ failure.
- The antiviral drug ribavirin seems to be an effective treatment for Lassa fever if given early on in the course of clinical illness.