Yesterday, two people were reported to have lost their lives at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital where they were being treated for the Lassa fever virus. Chief Medical Director at the hospital, Chris Bode confirmed this, adding that 100 others are currently being monitored there.
All of them were exposed to one of the patients who died – a 32-year-old who’d just given birth to a stillborn.
Today, Bello Kawuwa, the Commissioner for Health in Yobe just announced that four people have been quarantined for the disease while an epidemic response team is out on the field trying to enlighten people in the State.
Just last month, another State – Plateau – had to place both staff and students of a Secondary School in the State on surveillance based on medical advise.
This is not the first year Nigeria has been exposed to the deadly virus transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces and Nigeria is only one of the seven West African Countries known to be exposed to the disease (others are Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone).
But according to the World Health Organisation, fatality rate is only 1% and the cases that get severe are under 15%. Chris Bode of LUTH confirmed this yesterday when he said the two patients who died at his hospital presented very late, thereby making it difficult for them to be salvaged.
So how is this sneaky virus spread and how can we avoid it?
Here’s all the manual you need:
The Lassa virus is transmitted to the human body when it becomes exposed to the urine or faeces of an infected Mastomys rat. It may then be further transmitted among humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces or other bodily fluids of a person already infected.
It may also be spread in the hospital where medical equipment are re-used which may be the case here in Nigeria based on the reports we’ve received. Health workers ought to be properly suited with barriers while nursing people infected.
The WHO says that there have also being cases where the virus was sexually transmitted.
Poor sanitation in congested areas aids the spread of the disease as that’s where the Mastomys rats are usually found.
Essentially, the way to avoid this is to encourage and practice great hygiene to ensure no type of rodent enters the home to contaminate our foods.