How to prevent Lassa fever: main tips! Dangerous disease threatens Nigeria and West Africa! Take care and protect your family. Read vital information.
Nigeria is experiencing an outbreak of Lassa fever. This potentially fatal disease can cause an epidemic, and currently, there is no vaccine against it. Employees of health facilities are working hard. Some of them infected and became the victims of the disease.
What is Lassa fever?
Lassa fever is an acute and at times heavily flowing viral hemorrhagic disease. It can affect various organs and destroy blood vessels. For most infected, the disease has a mild form. Its symptoms are general weakness, headache, and fever. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all.
But in acute cases, the course of the disease can look like another dangerous hemorrhagic fever Ebola. It’s accompanied by bleeding from the mouth, nose, and other parts of body. According to statistics, a fatal outcome occurs in about one percent of cases. However, under the National Center for the Control of Infectious Diseases, the current outbreak in Nigeria may cause mortality in 20% confirmed and suspected cases of infection.
Lassa fever in Nigeria
Since January, more than one thousand occasions of suspected Lass fever have been documented in Nigeria. More than three hundred of them are confirmed. It is estimated that the virus took about 90 lives. But in fact, this quantity may be higher, as the ailment is difficult to diagnose. In its early stages, it’s mostly impossible to differentiate it from malaria and dengue fever.
For women who get infected on the late terms of pregnancy, the probability of loosing the pregnancy is 80%. There is no special analysis for this virus. One way to detect it is to examine the blood or body tissue in one of the few specialized labs.
At first the illness was discovered in 1969 in the Nigerian city of Lassa when the outbreak occurred in a local hospital. After that, the virus was found in other countries of West Africa. But the current outbreak is of particular concern since the number of diseased for this season is unprecedented. Sanitary services are trying to determine the epidemic cause.
The outbreaks’ occurrence can be affected by seasonal changes in weather conditions. It influences on the number of natural virus carriers – Masto mice or natal mice (Mastomys natalensis). The rodents combine the features of mice and rats.
These mammals are widespread in West Africa and easily penetrate into living quarters. It is also possible that a greater number of diseases became known due to the growing awareness of society. Most of the patients caught the infection through products contaminated with mouse secretions such as feces, urine or saliva. They could use such products for food or just bring them home.
Infection can also be transmitted from person to person by airborne droplets. In this case, the medical staff working without protective outfit and patients’ family members are at risk especially. Lassa fever incubation period lasts to three weeks. The scientists want to find out whether Lassa like Ebola can stay in the organism and be transmitted genitally later after the disease has receded. Nigeria has a developed health system with proven methods of countering such epidemics.
Nigerian authorities work in cooperation with the World Health Organization to coordinate protective measures. British authorities sent a group of medical experts from the operational support team to the areas affected by the outbreak.
READ ALSO: Сommon diseases in Nigeria
Lassa fever prevention and control
Since the Mastomys population in endemic areas is very large, their complete destruction is not possible. So, how to prevent Lassa fever?
1. Residents of the affected areas are encouraged to follow the basic precautions:
- block the cracks through which mice can enter the house;
- keep close trash cans and far from habitation;
- store food and water in tightly closed containers;
- hand washing;
- avoid contact with sick people;
- do deratization;
- keep cats
2. Family members who take care of patients are recommended to
- put on protective clothing, masks, and gloves;
- adhere to safety in the burial of the dead
3. While caring for patients in medical institutions, regardless of the expected diagnosis, health care providers should always follow standard infection prevention and infection control measures. They include:
- elementary hand hygiene;
- respiratory hygiene;
- the use of personal protective equipment (from splashes or other contacts with infected materials);
- safe injection techniques;
- monitoring of contact persons for 17 days;
- the use of antiviral medicines as emergency prophylaxis for people contacted diseased;
- quarantine for people with a high temperature of unknown origin
4. Laboratory workers are also at risk. Personnel should work with samples taken from humans and animals to study the infection caused by the Lassa virus. The research should be done in laboratories with maximum bio-security.
5. Rarely people traveling to and from endemic areas bring this disease to other countries. Although cases of malaria, typhoid fever, and many other tropical infections occur much more often, Lassa fever should be considered when diagnosing high-temperature patients returning from rural areas or hospitals where Lassa fever patients had been treated. When patients with suspected Lassa fever are admitted, health workers should immediately contact local and state experts for guidance and laboratory testing.
However, despite all the measures taken, the struggle against the Lassa virus as well as with other infectious diseases is considerably complicated because of the medicines’ shortage, including diagnostic materials and vaccines.
Lassa fever vaccine
Most likely the vaccine against Lassa fever will be developed soon. It will avoid the threat of the epidemic spreading on a global scale. But, as in the case of other infectious diseases mainly affecting developing countries, this process is considerably skidding.
The vaccine working out is a long, complicated and expensive process. Especially it comes to new epidemic diseases. In this case, the vaccine prototype can only be tested during an outbreak.
In 2017, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) started. With the financial support of the Wellcome Trust, governments of various countries, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates, it seeks to accelerate the vaccines’ development, including against the causative agent of the Lassa fever.
The institution has allocated the first grant for development of a vaccine against Lassa fever. It was received by the Viennese biotechnology company Themis Bioscience. In some laboratories in the United States and Nigeria, specialists are working on the development of medicines for the disease treatment and rapid tests for its diagnosis. CEPI hopes that within five years it will be able to develop and prepare for testing one or more vaccines.
The most affected countries need strong health systems together with quality medical equipment and health personnel’s training. Also, it’s necessary to work with the population. The main task is teaching people to realize how to detect infection outbreaks in the early stages and prevent their spread.
Prevention of Lassa fever in Nigeria plays an important role today. The Nigerian authorities and representatives of international medical organizations are trying to take all possible measures to ensure the isolation of patients and avoid further spread of the disease.