Lassa Fever-The Hindu-10-10-2022
Disease and environment:
Prelim and mains:
Lassa fever is an animal-borne, or zoonotic, the acute viral illness spread by the common African rat. It is endemic in parts of West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. Neighbouring countries are also at risk because the animal vector lives throughout the region.
The first documented case occurred in 1969. Lassa fever is named after the town in Nigeria where the first cases occurred.
About 100,000 to 300,000 infections of Lassa fever occur annually, with about 5,000 deaths. Surveillance for Lassa fever varies between locations so these estimates are crude. In some areas of Sierra Leone and Liberia, about 10-16% of people admitted to hospitals annually have Lassa fever. This shows the severe impact the disease has on the region.
Mild symptoms include slight fever, fatigue, weakness and headache.
Serious symptoms include bleeding, difficulty breathing, vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen and shock.
Death can occur within two weeks of the onset of symptoms, usually as a result of multi-organ failure.
A person can become infected if they come in contact with household items or food that is contaminated with the urine or faeces of an infected rat (zoonotic disease).
It can also be spread, though rarely if a person comes in contact with a sick person’s infected bodily fluids or through mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or mouth.
Person-to-person transmission is more common in healthcare settings.
Vaccines and Treatment :
There is currently no vaccine approved to prevent the disease.
The antiviral drug ribavirin is often used to treat Lassa fever although the usage is not a licensed treatment.
Other procedures used are supportive care including hydration, oxygenation, and treatment of specific complications arising due to the disease.
Preventive vaccines are currently under research and development.