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WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT LASSA FEVER? 

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BACKGROUND:
Alan is 35 years and lives in the rural area. She is married to a farmer and together they have 5 children with her youngest child just clocking 8 months of age. Recently sleeping at night has been an issue for her family, as rats hold their council meetings in her home and all methods employed to deal with these creepy little mammals had so far proved abortive.

She sleeps with her 5 children and husband in one room. In her kitchen,she stores household food stuff and her ritual almost every morning was to clean rat faeces deposited by the rats during their night council meetings; yet every day the size of the droppings seemed to increase. She sometimes noticed these black droppings in her garri bag which was usually not properly closed as well as the rice bucket which had a broken cover but ignorant Alan ignored these all as she said “Dirty no dey kill African  man.”

“How can I discard a whole bag of garri and bucket of rice”, she murmured to herself; NO WAY!!!What will these children and mama eat? She throws her refuse at the back of her house and rats usually feasted on discarded food remnants all day long. One of the favourite pastimes of her children was killing these rats with their catapults and handling dead rats with their bare hands.

In fact many times they conducted mini rat killing tournaments and any one that killed the highest number of rats usually went home with the bragging rights.

Three weeks ago she suddenly started feeling weak and developed a fever. Her husband took her to the local chemist who gave her antimalarial and anti-typhoud medications as well as drugs for her fever, however her symptoms worsened as she soon started vomiting and passing watery stool. Her baby who was been breastfed also started having similar symptoms.

Seven days later,despite the earlier treatment the fever still persisted and she started having severe abdominal pain as well as difficulty in swallowing. She was then rushed to the General Hospital by her husband. By this time three of her other children were ill. She was investigated and again  treated for typhoid fever and despite the drugs she was on, her condition seemed to worsen.

Two days into the admission her eight months old baby who was been breastfed died by her side. While grieving for her baby she suddenly started vomiting blood and bleeding from her nostrils.

The doctor in charge of the health facility immediately became suspicious and reasoned he could probably be dealing with a viral haemorrhagic fever. Blood samples were taken from her and a call was put across to the State epidemiologist, who responded quickly. Few hours later Alan gave up the ghost.

Her blood sample was taken to the infectious disease laboratory and the fear of the doctor came true, when he received a call from the epidemiologist. His hospital had just handled a case of Lassa fever.

INTRODUCTION
Lassa fever also known as Lassa Hemorrhagic fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness which is caused by the Lassa virus a single-stranded RNA virus.

Lassa fever was first described in the 1950s, however the virus causing Lassa Fever was not identified until 1969 when two missionary nurses died in Lassa a town in Bornu State Nigeria. Lassa fever is endemic in parts of West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
80% of people who come in contact with the virus either have no symptoms or come down with mild symptoms and are undiagnosed. The remaining 20% are symptomatic. Symptoms usually begin 6 – 21 days after contact with the virus.

Symptoms are non-specific and may include fever, general malaise and weakness as well as headache.
Symptoms may progress to include vomiting and stooling which may be bloody, stomach pain, difficulty in swallowing, unexplained bleeding, difficulty in breathing, chest pain and shock.

Some patients may also have hearing loss, seizures, meningitis and encephalitis. Death usually occurs as a result of multi-organ failure. Pregnant women in the 3rd trimester usually have high death rates;not forgetting high rates of spontaneous abortion. Because of how unspecific and variable the symptoms of Lassa fever are, it is usually difficult to diagnose clinically.

TRANSMISSION
Multimammate rat a rodent found in most homes and eaten as a delicacy in some areas is the host of Lassa Virus. When these rats
become infected with the Lassa Virus they do not become ill, but rather they shed the virus in their urine and faeces.

Humans become infected by direct contact with infected rats and their excrement. Contact with the virus can occur through inhalation of excrements which can occur during sweeping and dusting. It can also occur through eating contaminated food, exposure to cuts and open wound and touching of contaminated material. It can also be contacted directly by eating contaminated rats.

Person to Person transmission occurs via direct contact with body fluids and secretions of infected individuals. Sexual transmission of Lassa virus has been reported. The virus is excreted in urine for 3-9 weeks and in semen for 3 months. There is no evidence of airborne person to person transmission. Health workers and caregivers are at a very high risk of been infected.

DIAGNOSIS
Definitive diagnosis requires testing that is available in only specialized laboratories.

TREATMENT
At present there is no vaccine available that protects against Lassa fever. Ribavarin an antiviral drug has been found to be very useful in the treatment of Lassa fever patients especially when started early.

PREVENTION AND CONTROL
The role of community hygiene in the prevention of Lassa fever cannot be overemphasized. Foodstuff and grains should be stored in Rodent-proof containers; refuse thrown far from the house which must be properly cleaned. Placement of traps in and around homes can help reduce rodent population. Bear in mind that rats must not be handled or eaten and keeping of cats should be encouraged.

Family members should avoid touching body fluids while caring for sick persons. Hospital Staff should always apply universal safety precautions when handling patients.

In Nigeria, healthcare workers seeing a patient suspected to have Lassa fever should immediately contact the Local Government Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs) and/or epidemiologist in the State
Ministry of Health or call the Federal Ministry of Health using the following numbers: 08093810105, 08163215251, 08031571667 and 08135050005.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Castro

    August 12, 2017 at 6:39 am

    Good one Ovundah. I like the clarity of your letters. I am just sitting down and reading how to avoid Lassa Fever to my daughter.

    • Avatar

      Ovundah

      August 12, 2017 at 6:40 am

      Thanks for reading Castro, please do share the message.

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Healthy Living

World Suicide Prevention Day 2019.

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Every 10th of September the World Health Organization in collaboration with the International Association of Suicide Prevention celebrates the World Suicide Prevention Day.

This year just like last year the theme is ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’.

Every year about 800,000 lose their lives by suicide and this amounts to a death by suicide every 40 seconds.

25 more people attempt suicides and many more have suicidal ideations.

Of those aged 15 – 29 years, suicide accounts for the second leading cause death, topped only by Road traffic accidents.

Suicide is a public health concern and any one can be affected, and it is very preventable.

Unfortunately suicide does not end the pain but passes it to family members, friends, colleagues and others.

Last Saturday, RivEthics an initiative of the first lady of Rivers State Justice Mrs Suzzette Eberechi Nyesom-Wike, did a suicide awareness/ prevention campaign on radio and yours truly was the guest.

You can listen or download the broadcast which is in English Language and Pidgin English via the link below.

http://www.rivethics.com/index.php/2019/09/07/episode-167-ovundah-nyeche-world-suicide-prevention-day/

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Healthy Living

Why do at last, what you should do at first?

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By Ovundah Nyeche

If you know you will eventually go to the hospital, please do go there first.

What shall it profit you to go everywhere and anywhere and then eventually come to a real hospital when options are few and limited.

You have diabetes and you are convinced by friends and others to stop taking your medications and you immediately thrash your medications and you start munching bitter leaves, bitter kola and alcoholic bitters like because according to them, it will cure you of diabetes.

Subsequently, you miss all your appointments as you think diabetes is all about sugar control.

Well yeah, you noticed your sugar control is better, but you are feeling more unwell and you seem not to realize, your kidneys are going on strike.

You are diabetic, you have a boil and you allow ‘the enemy’ to use you to burst it and you keep dressing the wound at home even when it is obvious the wound is going left and becoming worse. To explain it away, you are told you stepped on ‘poison’ (diabolic) and you have to also use diabolic means to treat it.

You know your issues, diabetes, but you are deceived, because someone that speaks Queen’s English and has a visa puts your hand in a phoney machine and gives you highfalutin diagnosis and tells you to discard your regular medications.
Hmm

I know the end of the story and it is usually not in your favour.

Please take your medications, instructions and appointments seriously and don’t take medical decisions based on hearsay or assumption.

#hearword #OvdSpeaks #hearwordseries

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Healthy Living

Living Test Tubes…

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By Ovundah Nyeche.

And so one day I was seated with a patient, who came for a particular complaint…

And boom the  discussion turned to fibroids…

And boom I hear…

I am taking a herbal remedy for my fibroids…

And here was I sweating…

Madam, do you know what the herbal remedy you are taking contains? Nooooooooooo!

Madam, can you explain to me what fibroids are? The look changed to “if I had the chance, I will beat”… You can you explain to me what strength of material is? or explain to me the theory of relativity?…

Okay Madam, please do not be annoyed, “na play I dey play”…

Okay, jokes apart,  how does this herbal remedy work? Erm how am I supposed to know?

Madam, you know you are on other drugs, does this herbal remedy interact with other drugs you are taking?  And there was this “come young man you better behave yourself”… Well you know that look…

Erm Madam lest I forget, what are the side effects of this herbal remedy? “Haba” Doctor… These drugs are organic and have no side effect whatsoever…

Madam is beans you eat not organic? Shebi it has side effects… Which can range from firing, rumbling, peppering to praaaaaaaaa…

You say your medicine does not have any side effects at all? Yes oh…

Ironically, if a real doctor tells this patient anything, the patient will likely Google it… But when a wannabe is playing with the patient’s  life…They will likely look the other way…

Don’t kill yourself for nothing…

#hearword #OvdSpeaks #hearwordseries

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