Lassa Fever - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Lassa Fever Definition
A highly fatal form of epidemic hemorrhagic fever caused by Lassa virus. Lassa fever may be characterized by high fever, sore throat, severe muscle aches, skin rash with hemorrhages, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Lassa fever is an acute contagious viral disease of central western Africa. It may be caused by the lassa virus, a member of arenaviridae. Lassa fever is also called Lassa hemorrhagic fever.
This highly fatal disorder kills 10% to 50% of its victims, but those who survive its early stages usuall y recover and acquire immunity to secondary attacks. The number of Lassa virus infections per year in West Africa has been roughly estimated at 100,000 to 300,000.
Lassa Fever Causes
Lassa fever is a grave health concern because it can cause a very severe potentially fatal illness, is highly contagious and can spread like wildfire. The Lassa virus has been found in a rodent known as the "multimammate rat" of the genus Mastomys. The virus enters the bloodstream, lymph vessels, and respiratory and digestive tracts. After this, it multiplies in cells ofthe reticuloendothelial system. People may also contract a 'sub-clinical' infection, whereby they do not exhibit symptoms, but may remain able to transmit the disease.
People may become be infected by eating this infected rat or by eating food contaminated by rat excretions. Person-to-person transmission also occurs by direct contact, contamination of skin breaks with infected blood, and aerosol spreads. The virus that causes Lassa fever is related to others which result in haemorrhagic fever, such as Ebola and Marburg.
Lassa Fever Symptoms
Eight out of 10 people infected with the virus develop either mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all. The symptoms of lassa fever are so varied and nonspecific. The first symptoms of the disease typically occur in between 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus. The most common long-term complication of Lassa fever is deafness.
The other symptoms of the lassa fever may be included:
Lassa Fever Treatment
Ribavirin and an antiviral drug, has been used with success in Lassa fever patients.
Fluid replacement, blood transfusion and fighting hypotension are usually required.
Treatment of Lassa fever includes I.V. ribavirin, l.V. colloids for shock, analgesics for pain, and antipyretics for fever.
Patients should also receive supportive care consisting of maintenance of appropriate fluid and electrolyte balance, oxygenation.
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