Lassa fever

Lassa fever: Description, Causes and Risk Factors: A severe form of epidemic hemorrhagic fever which is highly fatal. It was first recognized in Lassa, Nigeria, is caused by the Lassa virus, a member of the Arenaviridae family, and is characterized by high fever, sore throat, severe muscle aches, skin rash with hemorrhages, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea; the multimammate rat Mastomys natalensis serves as reservoir, but person-to-person transmission also is common. Lassa feverLassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever first described in 1969. Clinical cases of the disease had been known for over a decade earlier but not connected with this viral pathogen. The infection is endemic in West African countries, and causes 300-500,000 cases annually with approximately 5,000 deaths. Outbreaks of the disease have been observed in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Central African Republic, but it is believed that human infections also exist in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, and Senegal. Its primary animal host is the Natal Multimammate Mouse (''Mastomys natalensis''), an animal indigenous to most of Sub-Saharan Africa. Although the rodents are also a source of protein for peoples of these areas, the virus is probably transmitted by the contact with the feces and urine of animals accessing grain stores in residences. Lassa virus will infect almost every tissue in the human body. It starts with the mucosa, intestine, lungs and urinary system, and then progresses to the vascular system. Individuals at risk are those who live or visit areas with a high population of Mastomys rodents infected with Lassa virus or are exposed to infected humans. Hospital staff is at great risk for infection as long as protective measures are not taken. Symptoms: Symptoms include, Nausea.
  • Vomiting (bloody).
  • Diarrhea (bloody).
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Constipation.
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).
  • Hepatitis.
  • Hypertension.
  • Chest pain.
  • Pharyngitis.
  • Neurological problems have also been described, including hearing loss, tremors, and encephalitis.
Diagnosis: There is a range of laboratory investigations that are performed to diagnose the disease and assess its course and complications. ELISA test for antigen and IgM antibodies gives 88% sensitivity and 90% specificity for the presence of the infection. It also detects IgM and IgG antibodies as well as Lassa antigen. The virus itself may be cultured in 7 to 10 days. Immunohistochemistry performed on tissue specimens can be used to make a post-mortem diagnosis. The virus can also be detected by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR); however, this method is primarily a research tool. Other laboratory findings in Lassa fever include lymphopenia (low white blood cell count), thrombocytopenia (low platelets), and elevated aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels in the blood. Treatment: Ribavirin (RebetolTM, VirazoleSM), an antiviral drug, has been used with success in Lassa fever patients. It has been shown to be most effective when given early in the course of the illness. Patients should also receive supportive care consisting of maintenance of appropriate fluid and electrolyte balance, oxygenation and blood pressure, as well as treatment of any other complicating infections. NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.

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