Lassa fever has killed two patients at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in the Idi-Araba area of the state. Both patients are said to have been hospitalized after the infection had gone on for too long.
Officials of the hospital have, however, put under surveillance at least 100 hospital workers who may have had contact with the patients.
The first of the patients is a 32-year-old pregnant woman who had bleeding problems after having a stillbirth. A post-mortem exam confirmed her positive for Lassa fever.
A pathologist who took part in her autopsy has also been confirmed positive and is hospitalized at LUTH’s isolation ward, where he is said to be responding to treatment.
The hospital’s chief medical director Chris Bode, who visited the patient on a morale-boosting tour yesterday, has called on staff to maintain “heightened level of alert” in the wake of the outbreak.
The hospital said it had notified the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Two persons were also confirmed to be infected by the dreaded fever in Edo State. The State’s Director of Primary Health Care Dr. Sunday Yerumoh, confirmed this in Akoko-Edo Local Government Council of Edo on Monday.
According to him, the patients were brought to the surveillance unit of the local government and their blood samples were positive.
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And in conjunction with the Institute of Lassa Fever Control at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, they were quickly moved to Irrua to contain the spread of the disease.
Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF), is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. Many of those infected by the virus do not develop symptoms. When they do have symptoms it comes in form of fever, weakness, headaches, vomiting, and muscle pains.
People infected with Laser fever must be isolated to avoid human to human transmission.
Close contacts of infected individuals and health workers who do not observe standard infection control practices are at increased risk of being infected.
There is a good chance of cure with an antiviral agent called Ribavirin when treatment starts within the first week of the illness. However, Ribavirin is avoided in pregnant women because of the risk to the foetus.
Health workers also provide supportive care with intravenous fluids, blood transfusion and medications for seizures as might be required.
Primary prevention involves avoidance of contact with rats. This tends to be heightened following bush burning. The rats are displaced from their natural habitat so they come close to homes in search of alternative abode.
Experts advise that bushes and clutter around homes must be cleared to make the surrounding unattractive to rats; food, cooking utensils, and drinking water must be kept in rat-proof containers; and to avoid using rats as food sources.