If you’ve been paying any attention to what’s important on the news and not the trivialities on social media (like why guys should not call ladies on Whatsapp), then you’d know that Lassa fever is back and has claimed lives in several parts of the country in the last one month.
In July, a student of Federal Government Girls College, Lantang, Plateau died following a fresh outbreak of the virus in the school. This caused school authorities to place staff and students under surveillance to prevent a spread. Cases have been reported in Anambra, Edo and most recently in Lagos where 2 people have been confirmed dead, 3 staff of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital have tested positive and about 100 other staff are being monitored.
The summary of the gist is that Nigeria is experiencing another outbreak of the dreaded and deadly virus and preventive measures need to be taken to control the spread and save lives.
The first thing to know is that Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the virus family Arenaviridae. Lassa fever is animal-borne and the host carrier of the virus is a rodent called the ‘multimammate rat’. Transmission occurs when human beings have contact with food or other items that have been contaminated by a rodent’s faeces or urine.
It is now important to know how to prevent these rodents from gaining entrance into our homes and lives:
- Keep your environment clean: This is the most basic but equally most ignored detail. As easy as it sounds, we find that many Nigerians actually find it difficult to keep their homes and surroundings clean. Here’s a useful tip: Start by decluttering. Give away items that you do not need and throw out others that have become worn and torn. This way, you’ll be creating space hence giving rats and roaches nowhere to hide.
- Fumigate if need be: Rid your home of pests and other unwanted visitors by doing a periodic fumigation of the entire space. When this is done, your home feels fresh and leaves no breathing space for rats.
- Engage in periodic checks: There are possibilities of rats sneaking in through doors and even windows when we carelessly leave them open. You’d never be fully aware of their presence until they begin to eat away your stuff thereby contaminating them. The way to know is to check corners within intervals, move static objects or even change their positions, say every two weeks depending on your work schedule.
- Pay attention to how you store your food: Your grains – rice, oats, cereal -, beans, garri, bread and the likes should be stored in rat-proof containers and not plastic bags. We’ve seen cases where bigger rats open air-tight containers even when they seem to be tightly locked so extra measures need to be adopted. When you notice there has been a breaking and entering, immediately dispose of the food item and the container.
- Cats should be your new best friends: If you’re not allergic to felines, then owning one or two may be worth it in keeping rats far from your home. Cats are an agelong nemesis for rats and their smell alone can cause rats to scamper to an early grave. According to a CNN report, “cats have worked as rat catchers in New York bodegas, Disneyland and ships during World War II”.