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Lassa fever: Health officials advise isolation of patients, prevention

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As the battle to contain the current outbreak of Lassa fever in parts of the country continues, health professionals have reiterated the need to isolate infected patients, while health workers should ensure standard infection prevention and control protocols (universal precaution), as well as barrier nursing.

Former President Association of Resident Doctors at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Dr. Adebayo Sekumade, explained that treatment of the disease is supportive, to ensure the patient is not dehydrated.

“Treatment also includes correction of electrolyte imbalance and treatment for other symptoms. Use of Ribavirin is also important at the early stage of the disease to prevent its progression,” he said.

Dr. Modupe Akinyinka, a Senior lecturer and Consultant Public Health Physician at Department of Community Health and Primary Health Care Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), said Lassa fever occurs in all age groups and both sexes.

“Persons at greatest risk are those living in rural areas or anywhere with rats

,” she explained.

Former President Association of Resident Doctors at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Dr. Olubumi Omojowolo said Lassa virus infections can only be diagnosed definitively in a virology laboratory, using the following tests: the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay, testing for IgM, antigen detection tests and virus isolation by cell culture.

He said: “These tests can be done at Virology Reference Laboratory at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos. In terms of management of the virus, the only known specific treatment is Ribavirin, which may be effective if given within the first six days of illness.

It should be given intravenously for 10 days. Supportive treatment should include; paracetamol, Vitamin K (Phytamenadione), Heamacel, Ringers lactate, anti-malaria and antibiotics- start by I.V. If patient is severely anaemic, transfusion should be considered.

“In healthcare settings, prevention is by standard precautions, where all blood and body fluids are considered potentially infectious. Standard precautions are applied to all patients at all times and in all healthcare settings. These include hand hygiene, use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), waste disposal, cleaning and disinfection of medical equipment and environment, as well as safe injection practices.”


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