- Deaths recorded, many quarantined
North Central states of Nasarawa and Taraba have been hit by the dreaded Lassa fever, causing panic in neighboring states, as many deaths have been recorded and scores hospitalised.
In Nasarawa state, no fewer than two patients with confirmed cases were admitted at Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital, Dash, Lafia. The situation was a lot worse in bordering Taraba state where government medical officials confirmed the death of at least one person from Lassa fever with many quarantined.
Nasarawa state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Iya, who confirmed the development to newsmen at a press briefing yesterday, revealed that the victims, an 18-year old student and a 34-year old man, were brought to the specialist hospital on 21st and 24th December last year respectively.
He informed that the patients were still alive and receiving treatment, noting that all their contacts had been identified and placed on surveillance.
The commissioner further disclosed that the state government had commenced public enlightenment campaigns to inform and educate the public on the dangers of the disease, adding that plans were on top gear to sensitize health workers at the primary and secondary levels in the state to improve on their index of suspicion.
He called on the general public to avoid panic as the disease was not airborne.
“One of the ways of contacting the disease is by coming in contact with body fluids such as blood, stool, urine and vomiting of the infected person.”
Taraba state government reported an outbreak of Lassa fever early yesterday, calling on the people to be more hygienic in their daily endeavours.
According to the state Commissioner of Health, Innocent Vakkai, one person has been confirmed dead while two other persons have been kept in for observation.
He said: “One person died and two others quarantined and their blood samples have already been taken to Irrua Specialist Hospital in Edo State for further confirmation.”
Vakkai however said that the state government had responded to the outbreak quickly and therefore urged the public not to panic.
He explained how the fever spreads, noting: “People usually get infected with the Lassa Virus after exposure to infected rodents, while person to person transmission occurs through direct contact with the sick person.
“Other precautionary measures include putting food in rodent proof containers and wearing protections such as masks, gloves, gowns among others,” he added.
The commissioner further urged anyone who witnesses nasal bleeding as well as bleeding through the anus and mouth to the nearest hospital as they are among the symptoms of the fever.
According to Wikipaedia, Lassa fever or Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF) is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus and first described in 1969 in the town of Lassa, in Borno State, Nigeria.
Similar to Ebola, clinical cases of the disease had been known for over a decade, but had not been connected with a viral pathogen.
Outbreaks of the disease have been observed in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Central African Republic. The primary animal host of the Lassa virus is the Natal multimammate mouse, an animal found in most of sub-Saharan Africa. The virus is believed to be transmitted by contact with the feces or urine of animals accessing grain stores in residences. Given its high rate of incidence, Lassa fever is a major problem in affected countries.
Signs and symptoms
Experts posit that 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 among many more arising from the affected organs are: vomiting (bloody), diarrhea (bloody), stomach ache, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), hepatitis,
cough, chest pain, unilateral or bilateral hearing deficit, seizures
Clinically, 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.
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. Frequency of transmission by sexual contact has not been established.