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Sierra Leone News: Lassa fever is on the increase

The surveillance supervisor of the Lassa Fever Unit at the government hospital in Kenema, Lansana Kanneh, said the rate of lassa fever infection in the Kenema district is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2017, in Kenema District, the Lassa Fever Unit recorded 17 cases and 11 died. From January to May 2018, 18 cases have been recorded and seven have died. He said the Unit is expecting more cases.
He attributed the high rate of death to delayed arrival at the hospital. He said people continue to self-medicated, visit “quack” doctors or engage in traditional remedies, and they arrive at the hospital half dead.
Kanneh said lassa fever is an infectious disease that can affect anyone, all tribes, old and young, male and female. The disease is caused by a small germ, invisible to the naked eye, called the lassa virus. Like other diseases, lassa fever can present differently; some people will become slightly ill but others will die from the disease.
Lassa fever was discovered in Sierra Leone in 1972 in Panguma in the Lower Bambara chiefdom, Kenema district. It has been discovered in other parts of the country including Koinadugu, Tonkolili and Bombali districts with the exception of Western Area. Presently, it is prevalent in Dodo, Nongowa and Lower Bambara chiefdoms.
Lassa fever is spread by rats and you can also get lassa fever from someone who already has the disease or someone who has recently had the disease. “You can get lassa fever if you leave your food or water uncovered, so a rat can urinate in it, and then you eat this food,” he said.
Lassa fever can be prevented by keeping your compound clean and clear of bush to deter rats. Dispose of garbage correctly, away from the house. Do not leave food lying on the floor. Keep food and water covered to prevent contamination by rats. Trap rats, but do not touch dead rats with your bare hands. Use a shovel, stick or plastic. Keep a cat at home to keep away rats.
By Saffa B. Moriba
Tuesday June 05, 2018.

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