Guinean health officials have expressed fears of a possible outbreak of Lassa fever following reports of a confirmed case in Mamou region. According to local sources, a patient originally from Kissidougou (Faranah region) was diagnosed with the disease at Mamou regional hospital (Mamou region) on Saturday, February 2. Health authorities have advised people in affected areas to take precautions to minimize contact with potentially infected rats to contain the spread of the disease, including keeping living and working environments clean and free of rat excrement and keeping food and water in tightly closed containers.
Lassa fever, an acute viral hemorrhagic illness, is most often transmitted via the ingestion or inhalation of urine or droppings of an infected "multimammate rat" (Mastomys natalensis). The disease can also be spread from person to person through exposure to the blood, tissue, secretions, or excretions of an individual infected with the virus, and via medical equipment that has been contaminated (e.g. reused needles). Symptoms of the disease include a slight fever, headache, general malaise, and weakness. In some cases, more serious symptoms such as hemorrhaging (e.g. gums, eyes, nose, etc.), respiratory distress, repeated vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen, and shock may occur. Lassa fever is relatively common in West Africa.
All those present in Guinea are advised to take the necessary measures to protect themselves from Lassa fever and to avoid contact with potential carriers of the disease. Individuals are also advised to wash hands and disinfect all surfaces frequently, drink only bottled or purified water, and eat only thoroughly cooked or peeled fruit and vegetables. All other food should be thoroughly cooked prior to consumption. Individuals who believe they may have contracted Lassa fever are advised to seek immediate medical attention.
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