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It is one of the basic requirements for healthy living for a man to exercise adequate and timely protection toward the environment he lives in and what he eats; failure to observe this may result to unwanted diseases such as Lassa fever.

Lassa fever is an extremely fatal, viral hemorrhagic illness named after the Lassa town (in the Yedseram River Valley) in Borno State where it was originated in the year 1969. It then spread through West African countries in viremic travellers.

The virus enters through the bloodstream of the human body, lymph vessels, respiratory tract, and/or digestive tract and can be transmitted to human beings following contamination of broken skin or with the urine droppings of rats that live around homes in rural areas off endemic countries.

Its symptoms are nausea, bloody vomit, bloody diarrhoea, stomach ache, constipation, hearing deficit, seizures, swallowing difficulty, cough, chest pain, and meningitis, among others. Usually about 10 days, patients who will survive begin to defervesce 2 to 3 weeks after onset of disease but patients who have greatest risk of dying usually develop shock, agitation and sometimes grand mal seizures.

This kind of disease usually occurs more in the dry season than in the rainy season and it becomes dangerous when the fever is delayed and the symptoms are ignored, hence, the need for immediate check-up and treatment when any of these symptoms are noticed. It is also advised to keep your environments clean this season especially as the heat wave has started to resurface.

As of 16th of January, 2013, a case of this dreadful disease, Lassa fever, causing 3 deaths, was confirmed in Benue state. Acting on this, the Federal Ministry of Health has donated 4,500 doses of both Ribavirin and Virazole tablets including intravenous drugs to the Benue State government to control the spread of Lassa fever in the state. The warning given by the National Emergency Management Agency in 2012 against possible outbreak of diseases such as cholera, Lassa fever, measles and other skin diseases as a result of the recent flooding that ravaged most states of the federation, readily comes to mind also; with the Agency’s constant awareness of Lassa fever on its social media platforms, but it is really up to everyone to decide whether or not Lassa fever should continually be a threat or not.

Lassa virus affects approximately 100,000 to 300,000 people in West Africa so we need to be more vigilant and precautious when it comes to the surroundings; loitering of the environment, even if it’s not close to your home, should stop; the mindset of “It’s not mine, it’s yours, so why should I care?” should be thrown away, we should help each other fight this disease. Keep rodents out of homes and food supplies so that they do not leave dropping in the food; maintain personal hygiene, cover your food properly, trap the rats/rodents and keep the home clean. The advantage of sterilizing equipments cannot be over-emphasized in this case and most importantly, for everyone, especially doctors, when in contact with an infected person, wear gloves, masks, laboratory coats, and goggles. Besides, cleanliness is next to Godliness.

Ojo Adetola

National Emergency Management Agency, Abuja


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