LASSA FEVER: PREVENTION AND CONTROL
Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever caused by Arenaviridae, a member of the virus family, a single-stranded RNA virus and is zoonotic, or animal-borne. It was discovered in Nigeria, in 1969 and is endemic in parts of West Africa, including Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. It has a seasonal clustering, rampant during late rainy and early dry season. An estimated three hundred to five hundred yearly infections with approximately five thousand deaths have been reported so far.
It is transmitted primarily from rodents to humans. Multimammate rats,( rats with many breasts) are the major vectors. Infected rats excrete the virus in urine and droppings for an extended period of time. Humans contract the virus through ingestion and inhalation by touching soiled objects, eating contaminated food. Exposure to open cuts or sores can lead to infection. Human transmission may occur by exposure to the virus in the blood, tissue, secretions or excretions of a Lassa virus-infected individual.
This species breeds frequently and produce offspring in large numbers. They colonize in residential apartments, offices, factories, and warehouses, especially where food is often stored.
Rodent control is notoriously difficult; however primary transmission of the Lassa virus from its host to humans can be prevented by avoiding contact with Mastomys rodents, especially in the geographic regions where outbreaks occur regularly.
- Ensure proper storage of food in rodent-proof containers
- Avoid the consumption of rodents as a food source.
- Properly dispose of carcasses of dead rodents.
While caring for patients with Lassa fever, transmission of the disease through person-to-person contact or nosocomial routes can be avoided by taking preventive measures against contact with patient secretions (called VHF isolation precautions or barrier nursing methods).
Such precautions include wearing protective clothing, such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles; applying infection control measures, such as proper equipment sterilization; and isolating infected patients from contact with unprotected persons until the disease is contained.
Development of rapid diagnostic procedures and increasing the availability of the only known drug treatment, Ribavirin. Obviously, research is presently in progress to develop a vaccine for Lassa fever.
Consistently educating people in high-risk areas about ways to depopulate rodents in their homes, and workplaces will help in the control and prevention of Lassa fever.
Moreover, regular cleaning and fumigation of your environment by trained experts is the guaranteed solution to safeguard your environment from the menace of these life-threatening rodents. Given that the widespread existence of Mastomys in Africa makes absolute control of this rodent colony impractical.
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