• 1:12 pm April 12, 2016

Lassa Fever; Why Should You Be Concerned?

Abiola Afolabi

Lassa Fever is a viral disease first discovered in a town in Borno State, Lassa. It is acquired from infected rats and highly contagious, the signs and symptoms although appears slowly is very similar to the Ebola Virus Disease, it is transmitted by contact with the feces or urine of a rat.

If you are very familiar with Nigeria, you must have observed the high population of these species in different markets and homes. Rats are possibly the most common animal in the Country, rapidly cutting through (un) processed food and dumped wastes.

Why should you be concerned?
Nigeria has the highest number of infected cases in West Africa. The country leads Benin, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Togo at 266 to a total of 300 cases detected in the region.

The latest WHO report established the Lassa fever has killed more than 160 people in West Africa. 138 death cases were recorded in only Nigeria.

Lassa fever has been confirmed in 22 states within Nigeria.It has been proven that around 80% of people who become infected with the virus have no symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose.

Another reason to be vigilant is the state of health in Nigeria, with an  incessant shortage of facilities, equipment, and Personnel. The 2016 health budget estimate is just 4.1%  (N250.1  billion) of the overall budget, (a significant chunk of this sum goes into administrative and personnel costs) and a far cry from the 15% benchmark agreed upon by the African Union Leaders Summit in 2001.

Infected Rats do not come down with the disease but become highly infectious and can easily contaminate food and cooking utensils with their faeces and urine.  It is important to keep the environments clean , to avoid direct contact with rats and to make use of  Rat proof containers to protect all edibles.