Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic disease that was named after a town in Borno state in Nigeria.
Lassa fever is caused by a virus – Lassa virus. And the “multimammate” rat (which belongs to the genus Mastomys) is the reservoir of the Lassa virus.
Some of the factors that increase the likelihood of a person getting infected with this virus include:
- Poor sanitation: The persons who are most at risk of being infected by the Lassa virus are those who live in areas where there is poor sanitation. This is because poor sanitation encourages the presence of rats – it attracts them.
- Overcrowding: Areas where there are crowded living conditions are also likely to have “multimammate” rats in the vicinity. This is usually because overcrowded areas tend to have poor sanitation.
- Residents and visitors to Lassa fever-endemic areas: Those who live in or visit areas where Lassa fever is known to be endemic, or areas where the “multimammate” rats are found also have a high chance of being infected.
- Family members of infected individuals: They are at risk because as they care for the infected individual there is high chance of them having contact with body fluids of the infected person; thus, getting infected.
- Health care workers:
- Health care workers (doctors, nurses, etc) who provide health care for those who are infected are also at risk of being infected.
- They could be infected through contact with any of the body fluids of the infected person, or as a result of an accidental needle prick from a needle used on an infected person.
- Their risk is increased if they fail to follow safety precautions in providing health care for the infected; and fail to use protective barriers such as gloves, face masks, etc.
- When inadequate protective safety precautions and equipment sterilisation are observed then health care personnel are at risk of being infected.