The Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses, is the cause of Lassa fever, an acute viral hemorrhagic sickness.
The most common way for humans to contract the Lassa virus is through contact with food or household items that have been tainted by the urine or feces of infected Mastomys rats. In some regions of West Africa, the disease is endemic among the rodent population.
There are eight West African nations where lassa fever is known to be endemic: Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Nigeria.
In the lack of proper infection prevention and control procedures, person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also happen, particularly in contexts related to healthcare.
Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial. The fatality rate in all cases is 1%. Case mortality among patients admitted to hospitals with a severe clinical Lassa fever presentation is reportedly 15%. Early supportive care combined with symptomatic therapy and rehydration increases survival.
Eighty percent of those who contract the Lassa virus don’t exhibit any symptoms. One out of every five infections progresses to a serious illness in which the virus attacks many organs, including the liver, spleen, and kidneys.
A Mastomys rat that has contracted the virus can continue to excrete it in its urine and feces for the rest of its life.
As a result, the virus can easily spread, especially given that the rats reproduce quickly and can live in households.
The most typical way to contract the disease is via ingesting or inhaling rat urine or excrement. Furthermore, cuts and open sores might allow it to spread.
The rats frequently come into contact with food because they frequent areas where people live and work. The disease can spread during the processing of the rats, which are occasionally consumed by humans.
Person-to-person contact is only conceivable through the exchange of blood, tissue, secretions, or excretions. There have been rare reports of sexual transmission, and sharing needles may spread the disease.
Lassa fever can also spread between patients and employees in understaffed facilities when conventional practices like hand sanitization and protective equipment are lacking.