The sudden breakout of Lassa fever in Nigeria has reached Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital. According to reports, it has been confirmed that a nursing mother and her two-weeks-old baby died of the deadly viral disease. Recall that last week, Taraba state government confirmed the outbreak of the disease in their state. Lassa fever is an acute and often fatal viral disease occurring chiefly in West Africa. It is usually acquired from infected rats.
Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Theophilus Odagme, confirmed the death of the mother and child saying:
“First incident happened between December 30, 2015, and January 1, to a mother and later to her two weeks old child. Yesterday, at about 10:00 pm, I received a call that a mother and child died in a hospital following similar and serious fever which killed them and was suspected to be Lassa fever. After series of test conducted on them, it was confirmed they died of the disease.”
He added that they started contact tracing and sensitisation of health care providers in order to address the disease.
Lassa fever is a deadly viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus and first described in 1969 in the town of Lassa, in Borno State, Nigeria. Yes, the deadly disease has its origin in Borno State. Lassa fever is a member of the Arenaviridae virus family and it is transmitted by infected rodents. Almost identical to ebola, the virus is often time transmitted after exposure to infected rodents and also through direct contact with a person that has been infected with the virus. Clinical cases of the disease had been known for over a decade, but had not been connected with a viral pathogen.
Preventative measures to avert being infected include making sure that your environment is clean and rodent-free, storing food in rodent proof containers and putting on protections such as masks, gloves, gowns among others.