Lassa fever: Medical experts urge killing of rats

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Lagos – Two medical experts on Tuesday in Lagos urged Nigerians to ensure elimination of rats from their environments to prevent contracting Lassa fever.

In interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, the doctors said that rodents, especially rats were more in human habitation during dry season.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia says: “Lassa fever or Lassa Hemorrhagic Fever (LHF) is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus.

“Lassa virus is a member of the arenaviridae virus family.

“Similar to Ebola, clinical cases of the disease had been known for over a decade.

“The infection is endemic in West African countries, and records 300,000–500,000 cases annually.”

A general physician, Dr Adedeji Afolayan, described Lassa fever as an acute viral infection characterised by high fever, facial swelling and fatigue.

Afolayan, who works at the Isolo General Hospital, Lagos, said Lassa virus was transmitted through contact with rat excreta.

He said that the infection could affect every tissue of the human body.

Afolayan said that a person could contract the disease by eating food contaminated with rat excreta.

He said that it was not advisable to eat foods picked from floors since such foods could be contaminated.

According to him, rats invaded houses in dry season in search of foods because of bush burning.

He said that the rodents would return to the bush during the rainy season.

The doctor said that Lassa fever could be contracted by people of any age group, particularly those living in areas with poor sanitation.

Another expert, Dr Femi Ayileka, said that rats lived close to human beings because they were provided with continuous source of food and shelter.

Ayileka, a public health expert at the Optimal Hospital, Ikeja, said, “To discourage rats, we need to limit the food source and remove materials that may harbour them.”

He said that Lassa fever manifested in the human body shortly after a person was infected with the virus.

“Between one and three weeks after the patient comes in contact with the virus, the signs and symptoms of Lassa fever typically manifest.

“These include fever, pain behind the chest wall, sore throat, back pain, cough, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis and facial swelling.

“In some patients, they are neurological problems, including hearing loss which may be transient or permanent,” he said.

The expert said that Lassa virus had been known to be highly dangerous and stubborn, which, he noted,  necessitated special equipment of  laboratories for its diagnosis and confirmation.

He advised people to always cover their foods and water to prevent rats from coming in contact with them. (NAN)

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