Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic disease. It is caused by the Lassa virus for which “multimammate” rats serve as a reservoir. This disease can lead to death. And so, it goes without saying that Lassa fever prevention is very important.
Since, these rats are the reservoir of this virus, avoiding and getting rid of the rats is an essential part of Lassa fever prevention.
These are some of the tips that are helpful for Lassa fever prevention:
- Foodstuff should be stored properly in containers where the rats cannot gain access to them.
- Garbage should be properly disposed of far away from homes.
- Garbage cans in the home should be kept neat and tightly closed at all times so as not to attract the “multimammate” rats.
- Keeping cats as household pets is also another way to control the rat population.
- Good hygiene and sanitation is important. This would help to reduce the rats in the community as well as in the homes.
- When taking care of people or family members who are ill, it is very important to avoid contact with the sick person’s body fluids.
- In hospitals, safety precautions should be practised and protective barriers (long gowns, boots, eye goggles, face masks or shields, gloves) used when attending to infected persons.
- Hand washing should be done regularly. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after attending to each patient.
- Safe injection practices should be enforced.
- Materials used in treating infected individuals should be destroyed and buried.
- Laboratory workers who handle the samples taken from infected persons should handle them properly and with extreme care, while adhering to the strict safety precautions.
- Tests on samples taken from people who have Lassa fever or who are suspected to have the disease should be performed only in laboratories that have adequate facilities and the suitable equipment.
- Avoiding contact with the “multimammate” rats.
- Don’t eat meat from “multimammate” rats.
- Store food in rat-proof containers, that is, containers that rats cannot get into.
- Keep the home clean to discourage rats from entering.
- Set traps for the rats in the home.
- Educate people on how to decrease the numbers of rats in and around their homes (good sanitation, traps, rodent poisoning, etc).
Diagnosing Lassa fever is not easy because in the early stage of the disease, the symptoms that are seen are similar to the symptoms of a number of other diseases. And the only drug that is currently known to be effective in treating Lassa fever (which is an antiviral drug is called ribavirin) is effective in the early stage of the Lassa fever disease. So, most times, the disease would have progressed to an advanced stage before the signs and symptoms point to a viral hemorrhagic disease. And at this point, ribavirin would not be effective in treating the disease.
So, it is just best to avoid being infected in the first place.
Lassa fever prevention cannot be over-emphasised.