Ghana on High Alert as Lassa Fever Outbreak Hits West Africa

MoH

Accra, February 11, 2018//-Ghana is on high alert of Lassa Fever following an outbreak of the deadly disease in 18 states of Nigeria with at least 31 deaths. While over 300 cases have been recorded at health facilities of the Africa’s most populous country.

This is contained in a press release issued by the Ghana Health Service (GHS).

The press release issued by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in Accra and signed by its director, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, said :“The outbreak [in Nigeria] has been on-going for the past six weeks and has necessitated urgent spontaneous national response actions among all neighbouring countries.”

Besides Nigeria, Lassa fever is known to be endemic in Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone and, but probably exists in other West African countries as well.

According to health experts, Lassa fever belongs to the same family as Ebola and Marburg which are the two deadly viruses.

What is Lassa fever (LF)

Lassa fever is an Acute Viral Haemorrhagic Fever illness which is endemic in West Africa. The incubation period is 6-21 days.

Symptoms

The onset of LF illness is often gradual, with non-specific signs and symptoms and commonly presents with fever, general weakness and malaise at the early onset.

After a few days, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain may follow.

Severe cases may progress to show facial swelling, and bleeding tendencies (from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract, and low blood pressure. Shock, seizures, disorientation, and coma may be seen in the late stages.

Complications include: deafness, transient hair loss and gait disturbance may occur during recovery. About 80 % of Lassa Fever infections are mild or asymptomatic.

Mode of transmission

Lassa fever virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with the urine, saliva faeces, and blood of the rodent (Multi-mammate rat).

Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in hospitals lacking adequate infection prevent and control measures.

The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa and the multi-mammate rat serve as reservoir for the virus.

Ghana recorded first confirmed case(s) in 2011 and two districts, one each in Ashanti and Eastern regions then confirmed outbreaks of Lassa fever.

Early use of Ribavarine (within seven days of disease onset), supportive care with re-hydration and symptomatic treatment improves survival.

No Vaccine 

There is no effective vaccine for the disease at the moment.

Meanwhile, Ghana Health Service has ordered its officers to do the following:

  1. Surveillance on Lassa fever and Acute Haemorrhagic Fevers in general (using case definitions) should be enhanced.
  2. Suspected cases of Lassa fever should be managed in specific isolation conditions.
  3. Health workers should adhere to regular Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures to prevent and protect against possible nosocomial transmission
  4. Blood sample from suspected case(s) should be taken and safely packaged and sent to Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) for laboratory investigations
  5. All levels (National, Regions, Districts and Facilities) are requested to update their preparedness and response plans for Lassa fever and VHF in general, sensitize the respective staff and create necessary public awareness.

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