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Lassa Fever Symptoms

Lassa Fever is a highly infectious viral disease caused by Lassa Virus. It was first recognized in 1969 in Lassa, Nigeria. It is the disease that is restricted to areas of West Africa.

Lassa Fever is a zoonotic disease which means animals are the source or reservior of the infection. Rats are meant as the host of the virus and the virus spreads from person to person via urine, feces, saliva, vomitus, or blood. Thus persons living in rural areas or areas of poor sanitation are at greatest risk of getting this viral fever.

Incubation period for Lassa virus is 5 to 16 days. One may not show any symptoms of fever in this period. But after 16 to 20 days symtoms start manifesting. Some of the inital symptoms of Lassa fever are:

  • Fever
  • Weakness or malaise
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficult in swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach ache

More severe symptoms of Lassa fever are:

  • Sore throat
  • Appearance of white or yellow exudate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Swelling in face and neck
  • Conjunctival edema
  • Difference in hearing or hearing loss
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Unexplained sudden chest pain
  • Seizures in rare cases

Facts and Statistics on Lassa Fever:

  • 80 percent of people suffering this fever have no symptoms and the rest of the 20 percent have a severe multi-system disease.
  • Six to twenty one days is the incubation period of this disease during which the virus remains inactive after causing infection.
  • An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 people from West Africa get affected and approximately there are 5000 deaths caused by this fever.
  • Nearly 15-20 percent of hospitalized patients of Lassa fever die from the illness.
  • Only one percent of infections cause death.
  • Sierra Leone and Liberia are two nations were the disease is most common and 0-16 percent of the population get hospitalized every year due to this fever.
  • Varied symptoms of this disease makes it difficult for the health professionals to diagnose it in initial stages.
  • Deafness is the complication associated with this disease in varying degrees depending on its severity.
  • Nearly one-third of people affected with this disease have deafness and in most of these cases the hearing loss is permanent.
  • This fever can get transmitted from one person to another either through blood, urine, or semen in adults and through breast milk from mother to child.
  • Women in the third trimester of pregnancy are at high risk of loosing their lives.
  • 95 percent of fetuses die in the uterus of Lassa fever infected pregnant mothers.
  • An antiviral drug Ribavirin is found to be effective in preventing this disease when given in the initial stages of the disease.
  • Research is under-way to find a vaccination for this disease.

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