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Lassa Fever : Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevent

Wednesday, July 11th 2012. | Disease, Fever

Lassa fever Definition

Lassa fever is a viral disease in the group of haemorrhagic fevers because it is associated with bleeding. The disease occurs in epidemics, mainly in West Africa. The virus is named after the town of Lassa, where a nurse was the first person to contract the disease.

The natural host of Lassa virus is a small mouse. She did not contract the disease, but excretes the virus through urine and feces. People living in poor hygienic conditions are infected with HIV through contaminated food.

Transmission between humans by blood, saliva, urine or vomit is also possible. Untreated, Lassa fever quickly led to an epidemic and ends, in 40% of cases, in death. If treatment is initiated in the hospital in time, the mortality rate drops to about 5%.

Lassa fever is a notifiable disease.

Lassa Fever Causes

Lassa virus is transmitted by the excreta of a little mouse (Mastomys natalensis). The virus is transmitted to humans via contaminated food.

The virus is spread by droplets rarely, wound infection or directly through bodily fluids (urine, blood, sex).

Troubles (symptoms)

The incubation period (time from infection to onset of symptoms) is between 6 and 21 days.

The disease begins with symptoms similar to those of influenza :

  • Weakening of the state general exhaustion
  • Pains of muscles and limbs
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fever up to 40 °

Then (after about 3 to 7 days), add the following symptoms:

  • Whitish deposits similar to ulcers in the larynx
  • Lymph nodes swollen and painful on pressure at the throat
  • Rash associated with mottled appearance of small nodules in relief on the face, neck, arms, and later extended to the whole body
  • Stomach pain similar to colic, diarrhea
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Swollen lymph nodes in other parts of the body

fter 7 to 14 days, life-threatening crisis:

  • Difficulty feeding and breathing because of swelling in the throat
  • Increased volume of the liver and spleen
  • Bleeding tendency due to coagulation disorders (bleeding external skin and internal bleeding)
  • Vomiting
  • Increased fever after temporary regression phases

Lassa virus (img; expasy.org)

Examinations (diagnosis)

Initially, symptoms may mimic other infectious diseases (including flu (influenza), malaria, typhus fever or sepsis). Identification of Lassa virus in the blood, urine, throat swabs or biopsies. The virus is identified using a specific test chain reaction (PCR = polymerase). Antibodies can be detected in blood from the third day.

Treatment Options

There are no specific drugs against the disease. Administered in the early days, the antiviral drug (virostatic) ribavirin may be effective.

General Measures – Hospitalization

  •  Antipyretic
  •  Compensation of dehydration and stabilization of traffic

Possible Complications

The bleeding tendency is a dreaded complication because it may result in death. Serious bleeding occurs in about one quarter of cases. Pneumonia and encephalitis are common complications that can cause lasting damage (hearing loss).

The evolution of Lassa fever is difficult to assess. Despite hospitalization, about 15% of patients die. Generally, the death is caused by multiple organ failure or cardiovascular failure. In pregnant women, the mortality rate is particularly high (50%) and over 80% lose their child.

Preventive Measures

To date, there is no vaccine against Lassa fever. The only way to protect against infection is to follow strict hygiene measures. It is therefore necessary to apply strictly the rule “cook it, peel it or leave it”, that is to say not to eat anything that can not be cooked or peeled. Also, avoid being in close contact with patients and their excretions.

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