Date: Thu 1 Mar 2018
Source: Graphic Online [edited]
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has confirmed the 1st recorded case of Lassa fever in the country at Tema General Hospital. Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, the director-general of the Ghana Health Service, who was speaking to the media in Accra on Thursday [1 Mar 2018], said one person has been confirmed dead from Lassa fever.
Lassa fever is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with the urine, saliva faeces, and blood of infected rodents.
The confirmation, Dr Nsiah-Asare said, followed a test conducted by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research. He said that, currently, all the frontline staff at the hospital that handled the patient before he died were being screened, while further investigations to trace the background and all contacts of the deceased were being pursued to prevent the spread of the virus. He called on the public to be extremely cautious of rodents and maintain good hygiene. He also urged the public to report any suspected case of the disease.
The GHS in February 2018 issued an alert of the likelihood of an outbreak of Lassa fever in the country. The disease is said to have already affected several countries in West Africa with, over 300 cases and 31 deaths in Nigeria.
The GHS recommended the following to all health workers and institutions:
1. Surveillance on Lassa fever, and acute hemorrhagic 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 samples 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, regional, 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.
Lassa fever [LF] is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever illness which is endemic in West Africa. The incubation period is 6-21 days. 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 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 per cent of Lassa fever infections are mild or asymptomatic.
- 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 serves as reservoir for the virus.
- Lassa fever is known to be endemic in Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone and parts of Nigeria, but probably exists in other West African countries as well.
- Ghana recorded the 1st confirmed case(s) in 2011 in 2 districts, one each in Ashanti and Eastern regions, then confirmed outbreaks of Lassa fever (see Lassa fever - Ghana: (AH, EP) susp. http://promedmail.org/post/20111220.3642)
- Early use of [Ribavirin] (within 7 days of disease onset), supportive care with re-hydration, and symptomatic treatment improve survival.
- There is no effective vaccine for the disease at the moment. [byline: Seth J Bokpe]
[Lassa fever has been active in several West African countries this year , including Nigeria, Liberia ex Guinea, and Benin ex Nigeria, so it is not surprising that a case has been diagnosed in Ghana. Interestingly, this was predicted previously. In commenting on the 2011 cases in Ghana, the late Mod.CP commented that Lassa virus infection had not been recorded previously in Ghana, but the lesser prevalence of Lassa fever in Ghana was predicted by a spatial-climatic analysis of Lassa fever data from human cases and infected rodent hosts in West Africa during the period 1965-2007 (See Risk maps of Lassa fever in West Africa. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2009;3(3):e388) <http://www.plosntds.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pntd.0000388;jsessionid=A18CA8161C084054F4225595CF9E71CB
> and also the ProMED-mail archived report: Lassa fever, predictive maps - West Africa http://promedmail.org/post/20090428.1605)
Halting the acquisition of Lassa fever virus infection at its source -- at the village level -- is not easy. As noted previously, getting local people to understand that virus transmission to humans occurs when people are in contact with the reservoir rodent host, the multimammate mouse (in the genus _Mastomys_) or its excreta can be difficult. Preventing this contact requires understanding that leads to action. Rodent control and prevention of contact with rodent excreta have to be undertaken at the village level with individual households. This requires an extensive and continuous public education effort. Transmission of the virus also occurs in health facilities when personal protective equipment is not employed and barrier-nursing practices are not adequate to protect staff from blood and secretions of infected patients. Although no vaccine is available, Ribavirin has been used to successfully treat patients and is most effective if patients are treated early in the course of infection.
Images of the mastomys mouse, the rodent reservoir of Lassa fever virus, can be seen at
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Ghana: