Lassa fever has symptoms that strikingly resemble Ebola. The condition develops after 1-3 weeks of exposure, usually to a “multimammate rat”. An exposure is not necessarily directly to the rat, but to its urine, droppings or saliva.
The condition can also spread from one individual to another. It can also spread in healthcare facilities who do not observe proper infection control and prevention measures.
What are the indications?
Most cases have mild symptoms such as:
- Slight fever
Some can end up with upsetting symptoms such as:
- Severe back, abdominal or chest pain
- Bleeding in the gums or nose
- Facial swelling
- Protein in the urine
Shock can occur as well as hearing loss among those with the symptoms. A small percentage of cases who were hospitalized eventually die.
How is it diagnosed?
A diagnosis of Lassa fever is generally based on PCR testing or antibody testing. The symptoms, health history and contacts of the individual are factors in determining a diagnosis of the disease.
How is Lassa fever treated?
Ribavirin which is an antiviral drug is used as treatment for Lassa fever. It is considered highly effective if administered early.
Most of the treatment involves supportive care by ensuring proper hydration and nutrition as well as oxygen and other measures as needed.
Take note that ribavirin is also utilized as post-exposure prophylaxis. Nevertheless, further studies are required to determine its effectiveness.
The prevention of Lassa fever is focused on community hygiene to discourage the entry of rodents in houses. Some of the effective measures involves storing grain and other food in sealed containers, proper disposal of garbage away from the house and making sure that the household is regularly cleaned.