The Lassa virus is a vulgar virus with a high mortality rate and an expensive cure. Lassa was strange to me because I have never heard of the virus before. As I was reading in my research, I began to realize the risk the virus has on people.
Lassa was first discovered, in humans, in a village in northern Nigeria (Andrechek). Lassa outbreaks have been reported in Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone and Zaire, which are all countries in West Africa (Andrechek). There have been reports of the Lassa virus out side of West Africa but those were in health care workers who had previously worked in that area.
There is an estimate of 200,000 to 400,000 cases of Lassa Fever annually, thousands fatal (Andrechek). The mortality among hospital cases is 15%, but if untreated is 60%. The way the Virus is treated is with Ribavirin for ten days. If the infected person gets treatment within six days his mortality rate drops to 5% to 9% in medium to high risk group. If the virus is not treated within six days, but is treated after six days, the mortality rate skyrockets to 26% to 47% (Andrechek). Mortality is 2 to 3 times higher it is found in pregnant or post portum women. The Ribavirin can be stored in room temperature places, but is very expensive and is hard to get to people in need within six days. There is an alternate way of treating the virus with the Mozambique Virus (MV) that eats the Lassa virus, but the risk of mortality is increased dramatically. This “MV” is administered only if the disease it is a life or death situation between the one to six day period. There isn’t a real cure for the virus. You can only hope it dies away with the treatment, but they are still working on that.
The way Lassa Fever was originally transmitted was through rats’ urine and saliva (Andrechek). The spread of Lassa is still spread by rats. It is also an aerosol, which mean that it is a disease that is transmitted through the air, but this is very rare. The most efficient way to get Lassa is through a rodent bite. People can also transmit Lassa. It can be transmitted by sex and by an aerosol method. Lassa is a level IV on the Biosafety scale (Andrechek). Which is the second highest Biosafety level. That means it is a highly contagious and deadly disease. Areas where the Lassa is transmitted are very poor and have little, to no sanitation.
The effects on the body are numerous and shocking. In the gastrointestinal system the effects include abdominal pain that leads to vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation and painful swallowing (Ling). In the respiratory system includes sore throat, pharyngitis, chest pain, and coughing (Ling). The way Lassa effects the cardiovascular system is scary, and includes: pericarditis, facial and neck edema (capillary leakage), bleeding of the gums, nose, GI and vagina, and increased blood pressure and heart rate (Ling). Other ways Lassa Fever effects your body is through dehydration, shock, meningitis, deafness, mental confusion, and seizures, which occur hours before death. The effects on children are strange also. They include bleeding, abdominal distention, foaming at the mouth and global edema, which is when the skin feels and looks like a balloon. That is also referred to as “swollen baby syndrome” (Andrechek). These effects have a great deal to do with the Biosafety rating given to this disease.
The Lassa virus is not a well-known virus, but has a huge mortality rate. This was not a good statistic I found. There are too many diseases in the world but if we try we can at least try to stop that spread of these diseases. If we contain the diseased area and isolate it, we will have attained a step closer to the ultimate goal. The goal is to have a world with out disease.