Skip to main content
Select Source:

Lassa fever

Lassa fever (lăs´ə), a severe viral disease occurring mostly in W Africa, characterized by high fever, muscle aches, mouth ulcers, and bleeding in the skin. The disease was first recognized in Lassa, Nigeria, in 1969. The causative virus belongs to a group called arenaviruses and is harbored by a rat, Mastomys natalensis. The virus is spread to humans via the rat's urine in airborne droplets or contaminated food. The disease can also be caught by medical personnel treating patients in hospitals.

The incubation period of Lassa fever is 3 to 17 days. Following fever and general malaise, later stages of the disease may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and petechiae, tiny purplish spots in the skin caused by leakage of blood from the capillaries. Heart and kidney failure may also occur in severe cases, and mortality is high, ranging from about 15% to, among pregnant women, as much as 60%. Treatment by injection of the antiviral drug ribavirin is often successful if begun early.

See also hemorrhagic fever.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lassa fever." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Lassa fever." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lassa-fever

"Lassa fever." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lassa-fever

Lassa Fever

Lassa Fever

What Is Lassa Fever?

How Is Lassa Fever Treated and Prevented?

Resources

Lassa fever is a highly infectious and sometimes fatal viral disease that occurs in western Africa.

KEYWORD

for searching the Internet and other reference sources

Hemorrhagic fevers

What Is Lassa Fever?

Lassa fever is an infectious illness caused by a virus. It is named after the town in Nigeria where it was discovered. Most people infected with the virus have only mild symptoms. But one out of five people with Lassa fever becomes very ill. Lassa virus affects approximately 100,000 to 300,000 people in western Africa each year.

Lassa virus is spread to humans by the Mastomys rodent, which is found in the grasslands and forests of tropical Africa, as well as in human homes. A person can catch the virus by touching objects that have been contaminated with the urine and droppings of the rodents. It is also possible to catch Lassa virus by breathing air near rat droppings, or by eating the rats for food. In addition, person-to-person transmission is common in village settings and in hospitals.

The U.S. and the World

Lassa fever was first identified in 1969.

  • Since 1969, Lassa fever has been killing about 5,000 people a year and infecting as many as 300,000 in West Africa, the only region where it is found. Those numbers may underestimate the extent of the disease, because of poor reporting in some countries.
  • About 15 to 20 percent of people who are hospitalized with Lassa fever die. In some areas with high rates of Lassa fever, like Sierra Leone and Liberia, approximately 15 percent of all hospital admissions involve people with Lassa fever.

Symptoms of Lassa fever may include fever, pain in the chest, sore throat, cough, vomiting, and diarrhea. The virus is so infectious that medical personnel diagnosing the disease must take special precautions. One-third of people with Lassa fever will develop deafness that is sometimes permanent. One percent of people infected with the virus will die from it.

How Is Lassa Fever Treated and Prevented?

Lassa fever can often be successfully treated with an antiviral drug called ribavirin when it is given within the first six days of illness. Because Mastomys rodents are found all over western Africa, however, it is unlikely that the virus can be prevented by getting rid of the rats. More promising methods of prevention include educating people about how to keep their homes free of rodents and developing a vaccine for Lassa fever.

See also

Viral Infections

Resources

Book

Garrett, Laurie. The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994.

Organizations

The World Health Organizations Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response division posts a fact sheet about Lassa Fever at its website. http://www.who.int/inf-fs/en/factl79.html

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases posts a fact sheet about emerging infectious diseases at its website. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/eid.htm

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lassa Fever." Complete Human Diseases and Conditions. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Lassa Fever." Complete Human Diseases and Conditions. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lassa-fever

"Lassa Fever." Complete Human Diseases and Conditions. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lassa-fever

Lassa fever

Lassa fever (las-ă) n. a serious virus disease confined to Central West Africa. Symptoms include headache, high fever, and severe muscular pains; difficulty in swallowing often arises. Death from kidney or heart failure occurs in over 50% of cases. Treatment with plasma from recovered patients is the best therapy.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lassa fever." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Lassa fever." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lassa-fever

"Lassa fever." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lassa-fever

Lassa fever

Lassa fever Acute viral disease, classified as a haemorrhagic fever. The virus, first detected in 1969, is spread by a species of rat found only in w Africa. It is characterized by internal bleeding, with fever, headache and muscle pain.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lassa fever." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Lassa fever." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lassa-fever

"Lassa fever." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lassa-fever