Ghana has confirmed two Lassa fever cases from the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research on 24th February, 2023 according to a statement from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) signed by its Director General, Dr. Patrick Kumah-Aboagye.
According to the statement, both cases are from Accra. The first case involves a 40-year-old trader, who was unwell for a period of about two weeks and died at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. The second case, who is a contact of the fatal case, is currently on admission but is very stable. So far, 56 contacts have been identified and are being followed up.
Dr. Kumah-Aboagye noted that following the notification, the Ghana Health Service has undertaken some public health measures including the activation of Public Health Emergency Management committees at all levels -national, regions and districts, detailed investigation and environmental assessment, the mobilization of essential medications and logistics including personal protective equipment, contact tracing and management.
The rest of the measures include quarantine of contacts and daily follow up by health staff, strict infection prevention and control with barrier nursing, sensitization of health staff on Lassa fever as well as community sensitisation and education on Lassa fever.
Lassa fever, a viral hemorrhagic fever, is endemic in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. Ghana recorded its first case in 2011.
Brief facts about Lassa fever
Lassa fever is caused by the Lassa virus and the incubation period is 2-21 days. The virus is transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent (rats, mice) urine or fecal matter. Lassa virus may also spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, fecal matter or other bodily fluids of a person infected with Lassa fever. Sexual transmission of Lassa virus has been reported.
Symptoms of Lassa fever
The early symptoms of Lassa fever may include fever and general weakness. Persons may later present with headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, there may be bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or stomach. Death usually occurs within 14 days of onset in fatal cases.
Treatment and prophylaxis
According to the statement, there is medicine (antiviral) for treatment and is much more effective if taken early. There is currently no vaccine that protects against Lassa fever.
Prevention and control
The statement also read that prevention relies on promoting community hygiene to discourage rodents from entering homes. Effective measures include storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from the home, maintaining clean households and keeping cats.
The Director-General also cautioned that: “Let us also avoid contact with blood and body fluids while caring for sick persons,” adding that “the Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service, in collaboration with our partners, wishes to assure the general public that all efforts are being made to contain this outbreak and prevent further spread of the virus”.