Monday, January 11, 2016 9:04 pm
Health experts have given hints on how to curb the spread of the Lassa fever epidemic that has spread to 10 states in the country. According to Francis Faduyile, former chairman, Lagos State branch of the Nigeria Medical Association, who spoke at a health awareness programme in Lagos earlier today, while it is expedient for the health ministry to contain the epidemic as quickly as possible, it is also essential for government to preach precautionary measures to hinder further spread of the disease.
Faduyile emphasized that since the acute viral haemorrhagic illness is caused by a particular kind of rat, people should ensure that they create a barrier between themselves and the animal. ‘’It gets people infected through its urine and faeces mixing with what humans consume, we should endeavour to keep foods protected from liquids and droppings of this rat.
Every citizen must take the issue of personal hygiene very seriously,’’ Faduyile said. He warned that farmers should be careful about putting grains out to dry, which makes it easy for such grains to be polluted by the rats causing Lassa fever.
Faduyile also advices those working in laboratories to guide against infection, since hospital and man to man transmission is quite common. ‘’Guide against having contact with blood and bodily fluid if you work in a medical laboratory,’’ he said, adding that those with symptoms of fever should visit the hospital as early as possible because early diagnosis ensures effective treatment. He noted that Lassa fever treatment has turned out more effective when the cases are identified early, especially in the first week, when it would require only a shot for the cure.
Ken Iregbu, an infectious disease expert is quick to point out that it may not be very easy to identify Lassa fever as it may easily present as common malaria. ‘’ While you are battling with malaria, the sickness progresses, and it is only when there is an epidemic like we have now that people become aware of it,’’ he said. However, other Symptoms of Lassa fever that may set it apart from malaria include chest pain, sore throat, diarrhoea, and eventually, bleeding from the orifices.
Iregbu said it is important for individuals to be able to identify the features of the rodent causing the deadly fever. ’’The tale is as long as the body, and is quite hairless. It has a pointed mouth or rostrum and on the belly, there are multiple breasts. When you agitate the rat, it passes faeces quickly,’’ the infectious diseases expert stated.
The rat has a life span of two years before dying on its own, but also multiplies very rapidly. Iregbu also emphasized the neurological features that follow Lassa fever. According to him, 25 percent of those that get exposed to it may suffer earring loss which can be an early presentation, but it can also indicate that the cause of the disease may be fatal.
Lassa fever has been around seen 1969, and experts say the virus is not one that can be easily eradicated, especially the rat that transmits it.