Explained: What is Lassa fever, and what are its symptoms

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What is the News?

One of the three persons diagnosed with Lassa fever in the UK has died. The cases have been linked to travel to west African countries.

What is Lassa Fever?

Lassa fever-causing virus is found in West Africa. It was first discovered in 1969 in Lassa, Nigeria. The Lassa virus is named after a town in Nigeria where the first cases were discovered.

Transmission: The virus spreads by rats.

Human Transmission: 

– A person can become infected if they come in contact with household items or food that is contaminated with the urine or faeces of an infected rat.

– It can also be spread if a person comes in contact with a sick person’s infected bodily fluids or through mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or mouth.

– Person-to-person transmission is more common in healthcare settings.

Symptoms: Symptoms typically appear 1-3 weeks after exposure. Mild symptoms include slight fever, fatigue, weakness and headache and more serious symptoms include bleeding, difficulty breathing, vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back and abdomen and shock.

Deaths: The death rate associated with this disease is low, at around 1%. But the death rate is higher for certain individuals such as pregnant women among others.

Treatment: The antiviral drug ribavirin seems to be an effective treatment for Lassa fever if given early on in the course of clinical illness

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: What is Lassa fever, and what are its symptoms” published in Indian Express on 15th Feb 2022.   

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