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A case of Lassa fever has come up. Reported in ParisFrance, sparking dire warnings about “A Scary Bug Like Ebola”.

So what's Lassa fever and the way does it compare to Ebola?

Lassa virus () belongs to the family and there are eight species of this family that infect humans. What makes this group of viruses remarkable is their relatively recent emergence as a threat to human health. The first case in Lhasa, Nigeria in 1969), the severity of the disease they cause, and the proven fact that they're transmitted to humans mostly by rodents. And where you search for people, you mostly find rats.

As the name suggests, Lassa fever causes hot temperature, but additionally weakness, headache and “malaise” (a general sick feeling). These common symptoms mean that cases are sometimes misdiagnosed and sometimes confused with malaria, which may mean worse outcomes for the patient and more time for the virus to spread to other people.

While many individuals infected with Lassa virus haven't any symptoms, about 20% of infected people develop more serious symptoms. These include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), shock and bleeding from the gums, eyes and nose.

About 1% of people that get Lassa fever die. Although the number is significantly higher in women within the last trimester of pregnancy.

Although there isn't any cure for Lassa fever, if a standard (“broad-spectrum”) antiviral resembling ribavirin is given early enough, it could be effective enough to stop serious illness. A Lassa fever vaccine is currently available. Phase 2 clinical trials – Final stage of testing in humans.

Different from Ebola

Lassa virus is common. Likened Because of symptoms much like Ebola, but they're very different.

While many have heard of Ebola and high-profile imported cases in non-endemic areas, e.g Europe And North America, Lassa fever is comparatively unheard of. Although each viruses are endemic to West Africa and can lead to similar symptoms in people, a key difference is how they're transmitted.

The Ebola virus is primarily transmitted from individual to individual through body fluids resembling sweat, saliva, semen, and blood. In other words, you have got to are available contact with infected fluids after which enter them through a cut, through ingestion, or occasionally through sex.

Lassa virus, however, is nearly all the time transmitted by rodents, especially the common African rat ().

It is now believed that Lassa fever is spread by rats when people by chance ingest rat excrement or urine. It can also be possibility that dried rat urine or feces containing the virus can turn out to be a source of infection when it's inhaled, for instance, when cleansing a grain store.

Even more concerning, it has been found that other rodent species, resembling the common rat () And the pygmy mouse () can be infected with Lassa virus.

Although the foremost animal reservoir has long been shown to be the common African rat, it's concerning that other rodent species, especially those which can be widespread on other continents, resembling the common rat, can carry this virus. Can also act as a carrier. .

An officer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps sprays hand sanitizer on a girl's hand during an outbreak of Lassa fever.
Norfoto srl/Global Stock Photo

Another virus also endemic to Africa, MPox, has acquired the effect of person-to-person transmission. We know this since the virus has clearly evolved over the past seven years and has spread to large numbers of individuals world wide, leading to “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” In July 2022.

Similarly, the variety of reported outbreaks of Lassa fever in Africa has also increased, with almost annual outbreaks Reported in Nigeria. Not surprisingly, we at the moment are seeing imported cases of Lassa fever elsewhere, resembling the UK (2022and Europe (2019, 2024).

An increase within the variety of cases could end in a virus that's more easily transmitted from individual to individual since it has more opportunities to adapt, or a virus that may infect different rodent reservoirs. is that if it establishes itself in other communities.

Add the complications of delayed diagnosis of Lassa virus locally and driving climate change Changes in rainfall patterns Lassavirus is one other pathogen threat that should be rigorously monitored, potentially altering the distribution of rodent species in additional urban environments.