Lassa fever

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Lassa fever is a West African viral haemorrhagic fever spread by the rat vector Mastomys natalensis and caused by lassa virus. Human infective chains follow exposure to urine or faeces of infected rats. It is manifest by insidious onset of:


Epidemiology

Endemic in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. Human to human respiratory spread is common. Sexual transmission of Lassa virus has been reported. The incubation period ranges from 6 to 21 days. It has a death rate of about 10% in hospitalised cases, but only 1% based on seroconversion studies.

Diagnosis

Difficult. Needs laboratory confirmation at a reference laboratory:

  • Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay
  • ELISA
  • Antigen detection tests
  • Virus isolation by cell culture.

Prevention

  • Rodent control
  • Infection control measures including prevention of contact with body fluids

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