Lassa Fever is caused by Lassa virus; it is named after the village where the virus was first identified. The virus belongs to a group of viruses which cause haemorrhagic fevers such dengue fever, ebola fever, yellow fever and so forth.
The reservoir of infection is a particular type of rat—the Natal multimammate mouse which is found in sub-Saharan Africa. It is normally resident in the bush but is driven into houses during bush burning during the dry season.
The virus lives and multiplies in the rat. It is contained in the urine and stool of rats. The urine can contaminate exposed food and man contracts the disease if he eats the contaminated food. The stool can become dried up and with dust can be breathed in during sweeping of the floor or in a windy situation.
It spreads from person to person through direct contact with body fluids-saliva, nasal discharge, blood of infected persons.
1. Reduce contact with rats.
Contact with rats in general should be minimised, also the urine, excreta of rats and all items contaminated by the urine should be avoided.
2. Barrier nursing-
Use of face masks, gloves, gowns, goggles etc when attending to infected persons is mandatory for all health workers; they are at great risk.
3. Isolation of infected persons
All infected persons must be isolated until they have fully recovered; person to person spread is through contact with body fluids-saliva, blood, nasal discharge and soiled materials of such persons.
4. Food hygiene—food must be covered, protected from rats.
One way of spread is through eating food contaminated by urine of infected rats, consequently food must be protected by all means from rats.
5. Desist from eating rats.
Another means of spread is through eating of infected rats. Since we do not know the rat that is infected, it is best not eat rats.
6. Maintaining a clean house and environment
A clean house and a clean immediate environment discourage rats and hence the spread of lassa fever
7. Be aware of the disease.
Finally, the best preventive measure is to be aware that Lassa Fever exists in Nigeria and the West African sub-region. Try to know what causes it, the mode of spread and how to avoid it as stated above.