Health

History Of Lassa Fever In Nigeria

The History Of Lassa Fever In Nigeria is not a pleasant one. Medically referred to as Lassa hemorrhagic fever, the disease was first discovered in Nigeria in the year 1969 and named after a popular town in Borno, Nigeria where its first cases were reported.

Medical practitioners and scientists in the field have linked the cause of this deadly disease to a virus known as the Lassa virus which is commonly transmitted by infected rodents, especially mice.

Individuals are infected when they expose themselves to food items that have been contaminated by the excreta of the infected mice.

The disease is also airborne and can be contacted through the inhalation of particles of excreta in the air. It can also be contacted through direct contact with the body fluids of individuals who have been infected, as a result of lack of proper preventive measures and control in the course of administering medical care and treatment.

Once a rodent becomes infected, it excretes the virus all through its lifetime through urine and feces thus, giving enough time for exposure. The virus may be transmitted to other animals that have access to food stores in homes.

The individuals who are more exposed to the virus are those in rural areas where there is a complete absence of good hygiene practices. Infection takes place either through direct or indirect contact with animal excreta, especially through the respiratory tracts.

The infection can also be acquired through broken or damaged skin. Person to person transmission can also place, posing as a risk to health care staff. In the males, the virus can equally stay in the urine for up to nine weeks and can be transmitted into the semen up to 3 months of becoming infected.

See Also: 10 Reliable Ways to Protect Yourself from Infectious Diseases

History Of Lassa Fever In Nigeria

In the year 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) considered the Lassa virus as a future epidemic for the world at large. Thus, it was listed for emergency research to develop a quick medical solutions to it.

In April 2018, WHO reported thousands of suspected cases of Lassa fever with over 70 deaths. More so, 14 health care workers were infected with a fatality rate of 30 percent. As of October 2019, no vaccine for the Lassa virus had been discovered. Research shows that the diagnosis of the fever is often difficult to confirm at the early stage since the first symptoms are common symptoms of malaria and fever. These include nausea, vomiting, and fever and apparently, there’s been no specific treatment thus, vaccinating the concerned population has been said to be the best stance in controlling the virus.

In 2019, research was carried out to identify the best vaccine for Lassa fever by scientists who made use of two vaccine platforms which include a measles vaccine strain and a recombinant opera virus. Accordingly:

“We compared the efficacy of these vaccines in preventing LASV infection in a preclinical animal model. The vaccines were well tolerated and induced protection against Lassa fever after a single shot, but with different levels of efficacy,” continues Mathieu Matéo. A comparison of immune responses after infection demonstrated that the best protection was associated with early T and B cell immune responses directed against several Lassa virus proteins. Analyses carried out on samples taken after vaccination also suggest that early induction of innate immunity and activation of immune T cells from just two days after immunization correlates with efficient protection.”

See Also: Lassa Fever in Nigeria; History, Outbreaks, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

“The most effective vaccine, the one based on the measles vaccine platform expressing LASV antigens, was recently selected by the CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) to enter clinical trials in humans by the end of the year,” says Sylvaine Baize, Head of Biology of Viral Emerging Infections Unit.

Lassa fever typically begins between 7 to 21 days of exposure. Research shows that 80 percent of the infected show little or no symptoms. However, mild symptoms include headache, fever, weakness, and tiredness. 20 percent of infected people show more severe symptoms which include: difficulty in breathing, chest pain, impaired hearing, bleeding gums, vomiting, and low pressure. Pregnant women who are infected tend to have miscarriages.

Death occurs within 14 days of exposure: 1 percent of infections often lead to death while 15 to 20 of those requiring hospitalization, due.

Lassa Fever Diagnosis

Investigations and experiments are often performed to diagnose the infection while assessing their development and complications. One limiting factor to effective diagnoses is the number of existing feverish illnesses that would demonstrate similar symptoms. There have often been cases of misdiagnosis. For instance, in cases with abdominal pain where the disease is common, the disease is common, it is diagnosed as Intussusception or Appendicitis. In West Africa where the fever is common, it is sometimes difficult to diagnose due to a lack of proper tools for performing testing.

Lassa fever is a viral disease that occurs within the region of West Africa with the highest cases in Nigeria; it has been declared to be endemic in some parts of west Africa. So far, a total of 400,000 cases of Lassa fever are reported every year in Nigeria, with at least 5000 deaths. The following are said to be common symptoms of Lassa fever: malaise, headache, cough, nausea, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, retrosternal pain,   loss of hearing.

See Also: Coronavirus in Nigeria; Overview, Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

The illness was discovered in Nigeria after the death of two nurses who visited the town as missionaries, Lily (Penny) Pinneo who was first reported to have contacted the virus, and; Mr. Harry Elyea. Miss Pinneo was reported to have been a nurse serving at the Jos Mission hospital. She was able to recover after being transferred to the United States of America for intense care and treatment. However, in 1960, she returned to Nigeria with some vaccines and cure to cure her colleague, Dr. Jeanette Troup who had also contracted the disease. Unfortunately, she arrived some days after the death of her Troup.

Harry Elyea equally served as a nurse in Nigeria from 1945 to 1968. He was tested and found positive for Lassa fever. He showed several symptoms of the disease but was also evacuated to the U.S for treatment; he was informed by the doctors that he would not survive the disease. However, he recovered and also returned to Nigeria to continue with his duty but died 9 months later as a result of the fever.

Since then, several cases of Lassa fever have been reported all over Nigeria with a one percent risk of death. Scientists and medical practitioners continue to work hard towards ensuring a permanent cure and prevention of the disease.

Lassa fever is a viral disease that occurs within the region of West Africa with the highest cases in Nigeria; it has been declared to be endemic in some parts of west Africa. So far, a total of 400,000 cases of Lassa fever are reported every year in Nigeria, with at least 5000 deaths. The following are said to be common symptoms of Lassa fever: malaise, headache, cough, nausea, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, retrosternal pain,   loss of hearing.

The illness was discovered in Nigeria after the death of two nurses who visited the town as missionaries, Lily (Penny) Pinneo who was was reported to have contacted the virus, and; Mr. Harry Elyea. Miss Pinneo was reported to have been a nurse serving at the Jos Mission hospital. She was able to recover after being transferred to the United States of America for intense care and treatment. However, in 1960, she returned to Nigeria with some vaccines and cure to cure her colleague, Dr. Jeanette Troup who had also contracted the disease. Unfortunately, she arrived some days after the death of her Troup.

See Also: Malaria in Nigeria; Causes, Effects and Possible Treatment Options

Harry Elyea equally served as a nurse in Nigeria from 1945 to 1968. He was tested and found positive for Lassa fever. He showed several symptoms of the disease but was also evacuated to the U.S for treatment; he was informed by the doctors that he would not survive the disease. However, he recovered and also returned to Nigeria to continue with his duty but died 9 months later as a result of the fever.

Since then, several cases of Lassa fever have been reported all over Nigeria with a one percent risk of death. Scientists and medical practitioners continue to work hard towards ensuring a permanent cure and prevention of the disease.

Efforts to Combat Lassa fever

Controlling the population of rodents is somewhat impracticable, thus, efforts put in place focus on preventing their entry into homes and destroying while also promoting good personal hygiene. Perhaps, the most effective and practical way is by storing food grains in air-tight containers in which rodents cannot penetrate. The use of laboratory coats, masks, gloves, and goggles are strongly encouraged while coming in contact with infected individuals to avoid the fluids of infected persons.

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Deborah Igbokwe

Deborah Igbokwe is a content developer at InfoGuideNigeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria team comprises Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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