Heed GHS advice to prevent Lassa Fever

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has directed all healthcare facilities across the country to be on the alert for suspected cases of Lassa Fever because of reports of the outbreak of the disease in some West African countries, including Liberia, Togo and Nigeria.

Accordingly, the GHS has asked health workers to apply outlined protocols in the country’s Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) strategy in suspecting and investigating a case of Lassa Fever.

It is heart-warming to hear that the country already has in place a strategy to contain the disease should cases be detected in the country.

However, this is not enough because it is when the people feel unwell and report to health facilities before the health workers there can apply the strategy and contain the disease, if symptoms show in the patients.

The problem is that in this country, some people, among them even educated ones, assume certain symptoms to be those of a certain disease they already know and so resort to self-medication to cure the sickness they think they are suffering from.

This attitude is, thus, likely to make people ignore the symptoms of fever, general weakness and malaise like headache and diarrhoea associated with early stage of the Lassa Fever. 

This means there is the need for intensive education on the disease to make the people go to the nearest health facility to report even the commonest of symptoms to ascertain they are not related to Lassa Fever.

To this end, the people must know the conditions that make it fertile for the disease to thrive, its devastation and what to do to avoid it or when you have it.

Lassa Fever is said to be caused by the Lassa virus transmitted from Mastomys rats to humans primarily through food or items contaminated with rat faeces or urine. 

The Mastomys rat or the African mouse is said to be common across sub-Saharan Africa and often lives in and around homes and scavenges on leftover human food items or poorly-stored food.

What this means is that households and food traders should endeavour to do all they can to keep away these mice or rats from homes and the markets.

This is because even before the virus is imported into the country from Togo, Nigeria and Liberia to cause human-to-human transmission, untidy environment and improper storage of food can invite these rodents to transmit the virus.

Therefore, keeping the household and market environments clean is imperative.

In Nigeria, where there have been 681 confirmed cases of Lassa Fever from 23 states with 132 deaths since the beginning of the year. The federal government is enforcing environmental sanitation to reduce the increasing prevalence of Lassa Fever.

The illness is said to incubate between six and 21 days after which there are such symptoms as headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Then severe cases may progress to show low blood pressure, facial swelling, and bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract, while shock, seizures, disorientation, and coma may be seen in the late stages, resulting in complications such as deafness, transient hair loss and gait disturbance during recovery.

Ghana recorded some cases in 2011 but unlike Nigeria, no life was lost but that does not erase the fact that the disease cannot be fatal in this country.

What it means rather is that it can be controlled when detected early or lives would be lost when patients refuse to report to the hospital for treatment, hence the Ghanaian Times wishes to appeal to the public to not hesitate to report any malaise to the nearest health facility for investigation and treatment.

The people should also uphold personal and environmental cleanliness as that practice is good to prevent not only the Lassa Fever but also other diseases.

The country has a lot to contend with in the health sector, so the people should heed all precautions emanating from the GHS meant to help avoid or manage diseases, particularly the prevention of the Lassa Fever.

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