In addition to the several socio-political challenges we are currently grappling with as Nigerians, the outbreak of Lassa fever has not been curbed.
Symptoms of Lassa Fever
According to WHO, The incubation period of Lassa fever ranges from 6–21 days. The onset of the disease is usually gradual, starting with fever, general weakness, and malaise. After a few days, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and abdominal pain may follow. In severe cases, facial swelling, fluid in the lung cavity, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure may develop.
Prevention is better than cure. While we believe that with effective cooperation the disease can be curbed quickly before it becomes another national epidemic with ill-boding implications for the lives of our people, the real challenge is to work towards its prevention.
Steps you can take to protect yourself and prevent Lassa fever:
The most important point is to avoid contact with the “multimammate” rats. Humans usually become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to urine or faeces of infected rats. Below are ways to do this:
1. Personal hygiene:
Wash your hands regularly. In the course of our daily activities, we shake hands, handle money and we don’t know what we touch or come in contact with, most importantly, we don’t know where those things have been and if they’ve come in contact with multimammate rats. Hand sanitizers will come in handy.
2. Foodstuff hygiene:
Store foodstuff properly in rodent-proof containers where the rats cannot gain access to them. Don’t eat meat from “multimammate” rats I.e bushmeat
I can already hear some questions like, “what about the foodstuffs we buy in the markets”, “how do we know if they’ve been contaminated?” We never can tell, however, we can get our foodstuffs from reliable sources and not just anyone, anywhere. This applies for people that eat out too. Avoid eating in places with dirty environments
Also, when drinking or eating from cans, make sure you clean the top or opening properly. Most times, when we buy canned products, we just open it and start using, assuming that it is safe. We need to stop doing this because it is easy for rodents to deposit waste on them.
3. Community hygiene :
Good hygiene and proper environmental sanitation are important. This would help to reduce the rats in the community as well as in the homes. Properly dispose of garbage far away from homes.
4. Maintain a clean household
Keep the home clean to discourage rats from entering the home. Keep garbage cans neat and tightly closed at all times. It is advisable to dispose of garbage far from homes. For those that have rats, setting traps for the rats is a good idea.
5. Keeping cats as household pets
This is also another way to control the rat population. Well, it is only applicable for people that can stand cats.
*Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of a person infected with Lassa fever. So,
6. When we go to hospitals, we should try as much as possible to limit the things we touch. We should enforce safe injection practices. For example, we should always request that our doctors or nurses use new needles if at all we want to receive injections
7. When taking care of people or family members who are ill, it is very important to avoid contact with the sick person’s body fluids.
8. In hospitals, safety precautions should be practised and protective barriers (long gowns, boots, eye goggles, face masks or shields, gloves) used when attending to infected persons.
Note that we don’t have to be paranoid, we just have to be careful and keep our family safe.