Lassa fever Healthcare Worker Advisory, 14th January 2020
Lassa fever is a major public health challenge in West Africa, with Nigeria bearing the highest burden. It is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) caused by the Lassa virus. The natural reservoir for the virus is the Mastomys natalensis rodent (commonly known as the multimammate rat). Other rodents that carry the virus have also been identified.
Epidemiological data show that Lassa fever occurs throughout the year, but more cases are recorded during the dry season i.e. November through May.
This is an advisory to health care workers, to prevent person to person transmission of Lassa fever especially in health care settings.
Lassa fever is spread through:
1. Direct contact with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rodents.
2. Ingesting food and drinks contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats.
3. Contact with objects, household items or surfaces contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats.
4. Person-to-person transmission can also occur through contact with blood, urine, faeces, vomitus and other body fluids of an infected person, particularly in the hospital environment where infection prevention and control practices are not optimal.
Signs and symptoms of Lassa fever:
The early stages of Lassa fever present initially like other febrile illness such as malaria. Symptoms of the disease generally include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pains, chest pain, and in severe cases; unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, vagina, anus and other body orifices. It could also present as persistent bleeding from sites of intravenous cannulation.
The incubation period (time between infection and appearance of symptoms of the disease) is 3 to 21 days. Early diagnosis and treatment increase the chances of survival.
Read more at The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)
The national guidelines for Lassa fever case management and Infection prevention and control are available on the NCDC website for download (http://ncdc.gov.ng/diseases/guidelines).
Please report all suspected cases of Lassa fever to your Local Government Area Disease Surveillance and Notification Officer (DSNO). They are the first link to response and care for Lassa fever cases in Nigeria.
NCDC Toll-Free Number: 0800-970000-10