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SASTM Newsflash - Lassa Fever - Nigeria (Plateau): Fatalities


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SASTM Newsflash




Two people lost their lives on Wednesday [30 Jan 2013] in a recent outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria's middle-belt Plateau state, according to an official. Plateau State Commissioner for Health Fom Dawak told reporters in Jos, the state capital, that a woman and a man died while receiving treatments at the state-run Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) and Vom Christian Hospital, respectively.


"Also, 2 other persons are currently on admission at the Vom Christian Hospital and are responding to treatment for Lassa fever," the state official said, adding that the Ministry of Health had dispatched epidemiologists to communicate knowledge on how to contain the disease. There is a high possibility of treatment and survival after early diagnosis, he said.


Lassa virus is usually transmitted when the saliva, urine, and excreta of multi-mammalian rats come in contact with humans through their food or water. Dawak said another symptom of the deadly fever is bleeding, which is why it is usually referred to as haemorrhagic fever, associated with bleeding through the nose, gums and urine. "Aside from bleeding, people should watch out for the general symptoms of ill-health such as headaches and fever," he added.


In some cases, Lassa fever has similar symptoms to malaria, the commissioner for health cum medical doctor noted. "The symptoms could also vary, but we always use proper testing to ensure that the patient is adequately treated," he said, advising local residents to always cover their food and water properly, as well as pay attention to clean surroundings. When people have clean and less clustered surroundings so as to keep rats away, the possibility of contacting the fever would be lower, he said.


In 2012, Lassa fever claimed more than 40 lives in 12 states across the West African country. For this reason, the Nigerian government set up a Lassa Fever Rapid Response Committee to investigate, prevent, and control outbreaks of the disease.


Communicated by: ProMED-mail


[In the countries of Africa, such as Nigeria, where Lassa fever is endemic, the disease is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. While Lassa fever infection is normally mild or has no observable symptoms in about 80 percent of people infected with the virus, the remaining 20 percent have a severe multi-system disease.Exceptionally, Lassa fever is associated with epidemics, during which the case-fatality rate can reach 50 percent. There is no preventative vaccine and treatment.


The antiviral drug ribavirin has been used with success in Lassa fever patients. It has been shown to be most effective when given early in the course of the illness. Patients should also receive supportive care consisting of maintenance of appropriate fluid and electrolyte balance, oxygenation and blood pressure, as well as treatment of any other complicating infections.


Lassa fever virus, a member of the virus family _Arenaviridae_, is a single-stranded RNA virus and is zoonotic. The reservoir, or host, of Lassa virus is a rodent known as the "multimammate rat" of the genus __Mastomys_. These rodents breed very frequently, produce large numbers of offspring, and are numerous in the savannas and forests of West, Central, and East Africa. In addition, _Mastomys_ generally readily colonize human homes. Lassa fever may also spread through person-to-person contact. This type of transmission occurs when a person comes into contact with virus in the blood, tissue, secretions, or excretions of an individual infected with the Lassa virus.



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The information provided in SASTM Newsflashes is collected from various news sources, health agencies and government agencies. Although the information is believed to be accurate, any express or implied warranty as to its suitability for any purpose is categorically disclaimed. In particular, this information should not be construed to serve as medical advice for any individual. The health information provided is general in nature, and may not be appropriate for all persons. Medical advice may vary because of individual differences in such factors as health risks, current medical conditions and treatment, allergies, pregnancy and breast feeding, etc. In addition, global health risks are constantly evolving and changing. International travelers should consult a qualified physician for medical advice prior to departure.

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