Not identified until the late 1960s, Lassa fever hit the West African countries badly last year. Currently an endemic, this disease has the potential to cause dangerous epidemics but there are no vaccines available for it until now! Even many of the health workers who were involved in treating those affected became victims of the disease and died. While the Lassa disease’s normal fatality rate is only 1% last year’s outbreak confirmed more than 20% fatality rates among the total affected population.
Lassa fever is categorized as a zoonotic disease as humans are affected due to contact with infected animals. The Mastomys rats are carriers of the Lassa virus which do not become ill due to the virus but spread the virus via their feces and urine to humans. Commonly known as the ‘multimammate rats’ they are commonly found across West Africa and are smart enough to find their way to people’s homes. Its very common for people to be affected by Lassa fever through anything that’s contaminated with the rat’s saliva, blood or excreta. It can be through eating, drinking or simply by handling contaminated objects. The virus can also be transmitted via bodily fluids such as direct contact with blood, urine, saliva or other such fluid secretions of a person infected with the Lassa fever. Airborne expression of the disease is not evident till date, but the virus can spread via re-used needles, sexual transmission and when people tend to the needs of the affected individuals without proper protection.
Lassa fever can affect anyone of any age group irrespective of the gender. Incubation period is usually anywhere up to 3 weeks. Symptoms show up gradually starting with fever and weakness and proceeding to headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, cough, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Extreme manifestation of the virus presents itself with symptoms such as facial swelling, fluid in lung cavity, bleeding in nose, vagina or mouth and low blood pressure.
Seizures and coma are also experienced by few patients in advanced stages. Sadly, Lassa disease leaves 25% of the patients with deafness out of which almost 50% of them recover with partial hearing after 3 months or so. If death is the result, it happens within 14 days of the onset of the disease. Pregnant women who are detected with Lassa fever during later stages of pregnancy are at a higher risk of maternal deaths and/or fetal loss that’s common 80% of the time.
Diagnosis & Treatment
There is no symptom that’s extremely specific to Lassa fever and this makes it difficult to diagnose, especially in the initial stages of the disease. The symptoms are common to other viral diseases such as Ebola (researchers are trying to find out if the virus can be passed through sexual contact as in Ebola even after the illness is cured) virus disease and others such as malaria, typhoid, jaundice and shigellosis. A lab testing can confirm the disease’s presence. Read more about Ebola and its devastating effects on human life at www.firsteatright.com.
Treatment usually involves early administration of ribavirin drug.
“Cleanliness is next to godliness” and the prevention measures for Lassa disease include just the same. Keeping your house clean, disposing garbage somewhere away from the residence, storing grains and other edibles in rodent-proof containers and growing cats as pets (which keep rats away from the house) and promoting hygiene of the community are sure-shot ways to stay protective. The problem with Lassa disease is that the Mastomys rats are abundant in endemic areas and its not possible to get rid of them completely. All that we can do is take preventive measures and be careful while attending a sick person avoiding contact with their blood or body fluids.
Healthcare workers tending to Lassa patients must wear face masks, long gowns and gloves. Its possible for travelers returning from Lassa-prone areas to export the disease to other countries. Finding vaccines for the disease is possible which could reduce death tolls and impact significantly. The problem here is that, diseases such as Lassa fever are mostly present in poor countries which lack the necessary economy and technology to find solutions.
We are what we eat! The effect of the cruelest of things that happen to an individual slowly starts to wear away as you start adding salt and spice to your diet! Eating might be a part of mankind needed for survival and sustenance but there’s more to it! Some treat food even as a symbol of love when they run out of words to express their care and warmth to others. For others its an opportunity to explore the world and be happy. Every country, different states in a country, and different cities in every state have a cuisine of their own. This makes our world filled with an innumerable number of cuisines, dishes and ingredients. Not even a food connoisseur would be aware of everything. Life is a balance of the different things that happen around us such as good and bad, happy and sad and so on. Likewise, eating too is an art. Eating too much or too less of certain foods raises the risk of dying of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. How we eat, what we eat and how much we eat influences our disease risk.
Too Much or Too Little?
Overconsumption of salt, sugar or fat can raise your risk for a variety of diseases while eating healthy foods lowers your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other diseases as well. We all know that fruits and vegetables are healthy, chips and burgers are unhealthy then what’s all the fuss about eating healthy food all the time? The trick lies in portion control, choosing the right nutrients and pairing them with your choice of foods. Basically, any healthy eating plan strictly adheres to eating more of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free/low-fat dairy products, moderate portions of eggs, nuts, lean meats, beans and poultry and above all, minimizing the intake of saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars. While this exists as a general thumb rule there is also a need to understand how the various dietary components affect the risk of dying from various diseases.
To find an answer to this question the researchers picked out 10 different foods and nutrients analyzing their relationship to diseases such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It was found that almost 50% of all deaths linked to cardiometabolic diseases (heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes) was associated with haphazard eating habits despite controlling factors for age, sex and ethnicity. A total of more than 7,00,000 deaths happened in adults due to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Almost 3,00,000 (45%) deaths were linked to decreased consumption of certain foods and nutrients needed for healthy living along with overconsumption of certain other foods that are branded as ‘unhealthy.
The risk of cardiometabolic diseases due to increase/decrease in certain nutrients consumption were as follows:
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.