As the LASSA FEVER epidemic enters its third week, here are facts you should know:
1. Currently, 10 states in Nigeria have been affected by the epidemic ,Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Kogi, Imo and Lagos states. Due to heavy inter-state migration and poor data collation, the number of affected states is expected to rise.
2. MODE OF TRANSMISSION:
a. Lassa fever is usually transmitted when humans come in contact with foods or household items contaminated by RODENT urine or faeces. Rodents include Rats, Hamsters, Grasscutters. A lot of the meat sources referred to as BUSH MEAT are rodents.
b. Already infected humans can infect other humans when they come in contact with the infected person's bodily secretions like saliva, tears, blood, faeces, sperm and vaginal fluids.
Lassa fever symptoms are very non-specific, and one can confuse other illnesses like malaria for lassa fever. However, it is beneficial to take an abundance of precaution when one notices the symptoms below, particularly if one has come in contact with someone confirmed to have had lassa fever:
a. Bleeding at sites you just noticed, like gums, nose, eyes etc
c. Difficulty breathing.
d. Stomach ache
e. Vomitting and diarrhoea, especially if mixed with blood.
f. Jaundice (yellow eyes)
4. WHAT TO DO IF YOU NOTICE THE ABOVE SYMPTOMS?
a. ISOLATION IS KEY. Remove yourself from as much human contact as possible. Where ever contact is unavoidable, strict rules of hygiene must be followed.
b. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated, especially if you have vomitting, diarrhoea, or are bleeding. Salt-sugar solution is best, as not only do you have water, you also have electrolytes which help other bodily functions.
c. Report to the nearest hosptal or clinical centre for further instructions, stating clearly what your symptoms and suspicions are. d. Should (c) above fail due to logistics, an early course of drug therapy has proven critically helpful in the early course of lassa fever. Consult a medical professional for proper treatment in any eventuality.
5. HOW DO I PREVENT IT?
a. COMMUNITY HYGIENE IS KEY. Wash hands before essential activities like cooking and toileting. Wash hands after use of public facilities. If in doubt about any activity, better safe than sorry, just wash your hands. Avoid sharing personal items like tooth brush, towels and combs.
b. Isolate people with symptoms until they are confirmed as not having the disease, or have become symptom free.
c. Food items should be stored in RODENT PROOF containers.
d. Previously unprotected food items should be properly cooked before consumption. Avoid eating unprotected food stuffs that have not been cooked e.g drinking raw garri.
e. Get rid of rodents in the house.
f. STOP EATING RATS!!
It is our hope that this epidemic dies away soon,without much more fatalities.
God bless all our health professionals who have died, and those still in harm's way to keep the populace safe.
May the souls of those who have departed due to this illness rest in peace.