She walked into the Dental Clinic, looking so weak and pale, her complaint being a three-day history of bleeding gums. Further history and examination revealed a concurrent nosebleed
Though a full head to toe examination of all orifices could not be done seeing she was in a Dental clinic, you could see in the eyes of the attending Dentist and her assistant a kind of fear, that could only be understood by other healthcare professionals.
You see, just the previous week, there were several reported cases of death from LASSA FEVER
A viral haemorrhagic fever which usually presents at a point in its natural history with bleeding from several orifices. There were whispers and then murmurs, which soon filtered to the ears of unsuspecting patients, of the possibility of having a patient with a ’killer disease in the Dental clinic. Like a raging fire in the harmattan season, this news filtered to the whole hospital and patients began fleeing to safety in their numbers, and soon the hospital almost became a deserted island. As is with bad news spreading ever so quickly, soon almost everyone in town has heard of this scare and had vowed to avoid the hospital like a plague.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness with an incubation period of 2 -21 days. It is known to be endemic in certain West African countries like Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Currently, there is a Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria with about 53cases and 14 deaths already confirmed as at January 21st in Ebonyi state. Other states with reported cases and deaths include Kogi, Ondo, Imo among others. Several deaths, especially of health care workers, have been particularly heart-wrenching. What you need to know:
MODE OF SPREAD
Lassa fever is a zoonotic disease meaning humans become infected from contact with infected animals. The animal reservoir of Lassa fever is the multimammate rat called Mastomy. It is particularly common in rural areas with poor sanitation practices. Humans become infected when they consume substances contaminated with faeces and urine of this rats. Also human to human contact is possible via direct contact with blood, urine or faeces or other bodily secretions of an infected person. This occurs commonly among close relatives and caregivers of infected patients and among healthcare workers.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
A patient infected with Lassa fever can start showing symptoms from 6-21days. Symptoms are usually gradual and are non-specific and include fever, headache, malaise, sore throat, muscle pain, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting and may be confused for common conditions like malaria. Severe cases are characterized by bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract. There may be seizures, tremors, disorientation and coma in later stages. Death usually occurs within 14days of onset in fatal cases. It is reported to be more severe in pregnancy and is in many cases associated with fetal and maternal deaths.
PREVENTION AND CONTROL
Prevention they say is better than cure. Prevention of Lassa fever is mainly dependent on good hygiene;
1.put in place effective measures against rodents; clear bushes around your houses, dispose of garbage properly and far from the home
2. protect your food from rats, store grains in a rodent proof container, always cover leftover foods.
3.Family members and caregivers should always be careful to avoid contacts with blood and other fluids while caring for sick persons.
4. Avoid self-medication; not every fever and headache is malaria
5. for healthcare workers, apply standard infection control and prevention precautions. This include; basic hand hygiene, use of personal protective equipment, safe injection practices and safe burial practices. Use of protective face mask, gowns and gloves are recommended.
In these times it is important to stay safe always!