A study has found that Climate change may aid the spread of Lassa fever, which is endemic to parts of west Africa, to the Central and Eastern parts of the African continent in the next 50 years.
- There would be a 600% jump in the number of people exposed to the virus that causes Lassa fever.
- The number of people at risk of exposure would rise to 453 million by 2050 and 700 million by 2070, up from about 92 million in 2022.
- An estimated 80% of infections are mild or asymptomatic. But the remaining 20 % can cause haemorrhaging from the mouth and gut, low blood pressure and potential permanent hearing loss.
- Temperature, rainfall and the presence of pastureland areas are key factors that contributed to the transmission of the Lassa virus.
- If the virus is successfully introduced and propagated in a new ecologically suitable area, its growth would be limited over the first decades.
- The Lassa fever-causing virus is found in West Africa and was first discovered in 1969 in Lassa, Nigeria.
- The virus is a single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the virus family Arenaviridae.
- The fever is spread by rats and is primarily found in countries in West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria where it is endemic.
- Mastomys rats have the potential to spread the deadly Lassa virus.
- The death rate associated with this disease is low, at around 1%.
- A person can become infected if they come in contact with household items of food that is contaminated with the urine or feces of an infected rat (zoonotic disease).
- It can also be spread, though rarely, if a person comes in contact with a sick person’s infected bodily fluids or through mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or the mouth.
- Mild symptoms include slight fever, fatigue, weakness and headache.