Lassa Fever: 3 Dead in UK, Know About Lassa Virus

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As the world is struggling against the deadly virus Covid-19, a new virus has been discovered named Lassa fever. This has reportedly claimed three lives in Britain, where the cases of new viral infection were detected last week.

On February 9, the health agency said the three cases were within the same family in the east of England and were linked to recent travel to West Africa.

Eight cases of the Lassa fever have been reported in the UK since the 1980s, with the last two coming in 2009.

The Lassa virus is named after a town in Nigeria, where the first cases were discovered.

Lassa Fever: 3 Dead in UK, Know About Lassa Virus

What is Lassa Fever?

According to United States’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is an animal-borne, or zoonotic, acute viral illness. The haemorrhagic illness is caused by Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses. The animal reservoir, or host, of Lassa virus is a rodent of the genus Mastomys, commonly known as the “multimammate rat.” Mastomys rats infected with Lassa virus do not become ill, but they can shed the virus in their urine and faeces.

How does Lassa Fever infect humans?  

According to World Health Organization (WHO), humans usually become infected with Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats.

Symptoms of Lassa Fever 

The incubation period of Lassa fever ranges from 6–21 days. The onset of the disease, when it is symptomatic, 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.

Risk of Lassa Fever

The UKHSA said that the risk is quite very low. The death rate associated with this disease is low, at around one per cent. But the death rate is higher for certain individuals, such as pregnant women in their third trimester.

Prevention against Lassa Fever

The best way to avoid getting infected is to avoid contact with rats. This means avoiding contact with rats not only in places where the disease is endemic, but also maintaining hygiene in other areas to prevent rats from entering the house, keeping food in rat-proof containers and laying down rat traps, the CDC advises.

Treatment of Lassa Fever 

Ribavirin, an antiviral drug, has been used with success in Lassa fever patients, said the CDC. The drug has been shown to be most effective when given early in the course of the illness, it further said.

There is currently no vaccine that protects against Lassa fever.

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