You might not know it but more than 41 Nigerians are reported to have been dead following the outbreak of Lassa fever. The death toll has exceeded the figure recorded during the outbreak of the Ebola Virus in the country two years ago.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses. It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with rodent excreta (rat). The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa. Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in the hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control measures. Diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential
Humans usually become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats. Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of a person infected with Lassa fever.
Presently, every Nigerian stands at risk of being contaminated if proper hygienic measures are not observed. One of such measures is to consciously keep our house and environment free from all types of rat, whether Mastomys or not. Not very many of us can tell the difference between these rats, therefore, prevention is the way to important.
Lassa fever occurs in all age groups and both sexes. Persons at greatest risk are those living in rural areas where Mastomys are usually found, especially in communities with poor sanitation or crowded living conditions. Health workers are at risk if caring for Lassa fever patients in the absence of proper barrier nursing and infection control practices.
Prevention of Lassa fever relies on promoting good “community hygiene” to discourage rodents from entering homes. Effective measures include storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from the home, maintaining clean households and keeping cats. Because Mastomys are so abundant in endemic areas, it is not possible to completely eliminate them from the environment. Family members should always be careful to avoid contact with blood and body fluids while caring for sick persons.
But can we really get rid of rats in our immediate environment? The rapid increase of its population has over the years made sales of rat poison somewhat lucrative. Even fumigating the house still brings you back to square within a couple of day in so many cases.
How can we get rid of this disease and its carrier?
Use the comment box below or the hashtag #ShelterMatters on twitter to join in the discussion. Lets hear from you