A fresh outbreak of deadly Lassa fever has killed a medical doctor and two other persons in Anambra State, director of public health in Anambra State, said Thursday.
Emmanuel Okafor confirmed the fresh outbreak at a one-day workshop on Lassa fever organized by the state’s ministry of health to sensitise health professionals in Akwa.
The unnamed medical doctor was said to have died at the Nnamdi Azikiw General Hospital (NAUTH), Nnewi after being referred from Asaba, Delta State.
Lassa fever also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF) is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the lassa virus.
“We don’t know the number of cases of the disease but we have three confirmed deaths,” Okafor said.
While Okafor assured that Anambra State government had put in place measures to handle the scourge, he however advised health workers to exercise high standard of professionalism in handling Lassa fever cases.
News agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted a resource person at the workshop, Jane Ezeonu, as saying “People don’t acquire immunity after suffering from Lassa fever. General hygiene is the key for prevention.’’
Commissioner for Health in the state Josephat Akabuike assured that “there is no epidemic of the disease in Anambra.”
The commissioner spoke through the permanent secretary in the state’s Ministry of Health, Okwuchukwu Chukwuka.
“It is a training workshop for health professionals in the 21 local government areas of the state who would sensitise and disseminate information about Lassa fever to the grassroots.
“We are having the workshop for prevention, not that we have an epidemic in the state,” Mr. Chukwuka said.
Cause of Lassa Fever
Mastomys natalensis, the natural reservoir of the Lassa fever virus Lassa virus is zoonotic (transmitted from animals), in that it spreads to humans from rodents , specifically multimammate mice ( Mastomys natalensis).
This is probably the most common mouse in equatorial Africa, ubiquitous in human households and eaten as a delicacy in some areas.
In these rodents, infection is in a persistent asymptomatic state. The virus is shed in their excreta (urine and feces), which can be aerosolized .
In fatal cases, Lassa fever is characterized by impaired or delayed cellular immunity leading to fulminant viremia.
Infection in humans typically occurs by exposure to animal excrement through the respiratory or gastrointestinal tracts.
Inhalation of tiny particles of infectious material (aerosol) is believed to be the most significant means of exposure. It is possible to acquire the infection through broken skin or mucous membranes that are directly exposed to infectious material.
Transmission from person to person has also been established, presenting a disease risk for healthcare workers. The virus is still present in the urine of someone who was infected between 3 and 9 weeks after he or she became ill, and men can transmit the virus via semen for up to 3 months after being infected.
Signs and symptoms of Lassa fever
According to research, “80% of cases, the disease is asymptomatic, but in the remaining 20%, it takes a complicated course. The virus is estimated to be responsible for about 5,000 deaths annually. The fever accounts for up to one-third of deaths in hospitals within the affected regions and 10 to 16% of total cases.”
After an incubation period of six to 21 days, an acute illness with multiorgan involvement develops. Nonspecific symptoms include fever , facial swelling, and muscle fatigue, as well as conjunctivitis and mucosal bleeding.
The other symptoms arising from the affected organs are:
- Gastrointestinal tract
- Vomiting (bloody)
- Diarrhea (bloody)
- Stomach ache
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Cardiovascular system
- Tachycardia (abnormally high heart rate)
- Respiratory tract
- Chest pain
- Nervous system
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing deficit
According to research, “Lassa fever infections are difficult to distinguish from other viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola and Marburg , and from more common febrile illnesses such as malaria. The virus is excreted in urine for 3–9 weeks and in semen for three months.”
Control of rodent population out of homes and food supplies
Maintaining effective personal hygiene.
Gloves, masks, laboratory coats, and goggles are advised while in contact with an infected person.
News Agency of Nigeria