What is Lassa fever?

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The indications of Lassa are strikingly similar to the Ebola since both are viral hemorrhagic fevers and found in West Africa. When it comes to Lassa, it is not widely known but responsible for many deaths over the last decade.

Those who are infected with Lassa are less likely to die but the condition can kill more since it infects others easily.

Causes of Lassa

Lassa fever
An individual with Lassa fever can experience severe abdominal, back or chest pain.

Most individuals who are infected with Lassa in West Africa are not diagnosed. In most cases, mild symptoms can occur such as fatigue, slight fever and headache. In some though, they end up with troublesome symptoms such as the following:

  • Bleeding, usually in the nose and gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe abdominal, back or chest pain
  • Facial swelling
  • Protein in the urine
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Possible confusion and tremors

In some cases, shock can occur. Some also end up with hearing loss along with the symptoms. Those who are susceptible to severe cases face a high risk for death.

Individuals who were hospitalized have a higher risk for death since they are already sick when taken to the hospital or might have a higher degree of exposure. Among those who have been hospitalized, a small percentage have died. Many who do not have access to care are not diagnosed even if they have symptoms.

Where is Lassa prevalent?

The condition was initially diagnosed in Nigeria which was identified back in 1969 when 2 missionary nurses died from it.

At the present, it is found in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea and Liberia. There were also a few reported cases in southern Burkina Faso, southern Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. The antibodies to the virus have been identified in individuals in Benin and Togo which raised issues.

How do I get Lassa?

The Lassa fever develops 1-3 weeks after exposure. Always bear in mind that the exposure is typically to a “multimammate rat”. The exposure does not need to be direct to the rat since infection can also be due to exposure to rat urine, droppings or saliva.


Ribavirin is an antiviral drug that is used for Lassa fever. The medication works effectively if administered early. Remember that it is not a specific treatment for the virus and not a cure-all drug.

Most of the treatment involves supportive management to ensure that the individual stays hydrated and properly fed while providing oxygen and other treatment as needed.

The delivery of the fetus or infant seems to improve the health of the mother. It is important to note that ribavirin is also utilized as a post-exposure prophylaxis. Nevertheless, it can be hard to fully study its effectiveness.

Diagnosis for Lassa fever

A diagnosis is based on PCR testing or antibody tests. It can be hard to recognize the condition clinically. The diagnosis is usually made using the symptoms, history of the individual and possible contacts. The symptoms can be non-specific and believed to be another febrile disease.

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