On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...

Sierra Leone News: Health alert -Lassa fever in Kenema… 3 deaths

Kenema DMO, Dr. Mohamed Alex Vandi

Kenema DMO, Dr. Mohamed Alex Vandi

Three people died of Lassa fever in Kenema during the second week of February. Concerns continue to rise about the increase in the number of positive cases of Lassa fever, according to the District Medical Officer, Dr. Mohamed Alex Vandi.
“It is no secret that Lassa fever is endemic in Kenema,” according to Dr. Vandi. “The disease is in every part of the country with the exception of the Western area.”
The illness was discovered in 1969 when two missionary nurses died in Nigeria. The virus is named after the town in Nigeria where the first cases occurred.
People can become infected with the Lassa virus from exposure to urine or faeces of infected rats. Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of a person infected with Lassa fever. Sexual transmission of Lassa virus has been reported. The Lassa virus is spread between humans the same way Ebola is spread – through bodily fluids. The Lassa virus is not airborne and cannot be spread without contact with an infected person.
Lassa fever occurs in all age groups and both sexes. Persons at greatest risk are those living in rural areas where rats are usually found, especially in communities with poor sanitation or crowded living conditions.
According to the DMO, the rodent responsible for the fever is moving across the country as a result of the farming activities. Rats carrying the virus are relocating into towns to avoid farmer’s fires.
Dr. Vandi said they need to engage and educate the community people on what to and not to do as a way to control the situation.
The District Medical Officer explained that the signs and symptoms of the disease resemble those of malaria, which is why most people first seek malaria treatment before going to the hospital for the Lassa virus test.
The incubation period of Lassa fever ranges from 2–21 days. The onset of the disease, when it is symptomatic, is usually gradual, starting with fever, general weakness, and general body aches. After a few days, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and abdominal pain may follow. In severe cases facial swelling, fluid in the lung cavity, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure may develop. WHO warns, shock, seizures, tremors, disorientation, and coma may be seen in the later stages. Death usually occurs within 14 days of onset in fatal cases.
Dr. Vandi said, “Early referral increases a patient’s chance of survival. The three patients who died in hospital was as a result of late referrals. They only came when the virus had overcome them.”
According to the CDC – USA, the number of Lassa virus infections per year in West Africa is estimated at 100,000 to 300,000, with approximately 5,000 deaths. This is a crude estimate because accurate records are not kept or recorded. In some areas of Sierra Leone and Liberia, it is known that 10% – 16% of people admitted to hospitals every year have Lassa fever.
Tulane University is a medical college in the U.S. Their emphasis is on treating tropical illnesses. Tulane is a leader in health and bio-innovation. Tulane has been involved with Sierra Leone for many years. They operated a Lassa fever clinic in Kenema prior to the Ebola outbreak. Tulane was also influential during the Ebola fight. Tulane University has re-constructed and equipped a modern  treatment centre at the Kenema Hospital.
The Kenema District Council, Chief Administrator, Bockarie Buannie, explained that Panguma in Lower Bambara, has been known as a centre of the disease.
Social Enterprise Development (SEND) Sierra Leone is presently implementing a program called 10:43 on sensitization on prevention and protection on Ebola, Lassa fever and Cholera in various communities within the Kenema District.
By Alhaji M. Kamara
Monday February 27, 2017

Comments are closed.