A year after the war against the Ebola virus, the media sphere is buzzing with recent news of the Lassa fever epidemic and its official death toll of 41 Nigerians. Our federal government has assured citizens of its commitment to containing and eventually wiping out the illness, earmarking a substantial sum of N140 million for this purpose.
Affected states in Nigeria as of date include Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo.
Important facts about Lassa fever includes:
1. Meaning: Lassa fever is an acute viral disease caused by the Lassa virus which belongs to the arenavirus virus family.
2. Origin: It was first discovered in Nigeria in 1969 after the unexpected death of two missionary nurses.
3. Location: The disease is primarily predominant in West Africa – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
4. Animal host: The multimammate rodent species is the only known carrier of the virus, and it is mostly found in West Africa.
5. Number of deaths: Approximately 5,000 deaths have occurred in the region because of the disease with approximately 100,000 to 300,000 infections.
6. How humans are infected: This takes place through various means including contact with multimammate rodent excretions (urine and droppings) or food items containing them, inhaling particles in the air with these excretions and thirdly, the consumption of rodent meat.
7. Symptoms: These usually become visible 1-3 weeks after infection. They include yellowing of eyes, vomiting, headaches, etc. 8. Treatment: The disease is treatable with the antiviral drug, Ribavrin, which is considered most effective when given at the early stages of the disease infection.
9. Prevention: Homes should be thoroughly fumigated and food items covered to prevent contamination. Eating of rodent meat (as bush meat) should also be prohibited.
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