Lassa Fever Virus Symptoms

Lassa Fever Virus Symptoms
Female Scientist Working in The Lab, Using Computer Screen

Lassa fever is a viral illness that is endemic in West African countries, particularly Nigeria. It is caused by the Lassa virus, which is transmitted to humans through contact with the urine or feces of infected rats. The virus was first identified in 1969 and has since caused multiple outbreaks, with thousands of cases reported every year.

The symptoms of Lassa fever can range from mild to severe, and in some cases, it can be fatal. The incubation period for the virus is about 1-3 weeks, during which an infected person may not exhibit any symptoms. However, once the symptoms start to appear, they can include fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, and general weakness.

In severe cases of Lassa fever, patients may experience bleeding from the gums, nose, or eyes, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Complications can include seizures, deafness, and organ failure. The mortality rate for Lassa fever is estimated to be around 1%, but it can be much higher during outbreaks or in cases where the virus is not detected early enough.

If you experience any of the symptoms associated with Lassa fever and have recently traveled to an area where the virus is endemic, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Early detection and treatment can improve the chances of survival and reduce the risk of further transmission.

Early Stage Symptoms

  • Fever: One of the first symptoms of Lassa fever is usually a high grade fever, which is defined as a body temperature above 38.3°C or 101°F.
  • Headache: Many individuals infected with the Lassa fever virus experience severe headaches, which can be persistent.
  • Malaise: The early stages of Lassa fever are often characterized by a general feeling of discomfort and fatigue.
  • Sore throat: Some patients may experience a sore throat, which can be accompanied by difficulty swallowing.
  • Cough: A dry cough is another common symptom of Lassa fever, which can worsen over time.
  • Generalized body aches: Many patients with Lassa fever develop muscle aches and joint pains, which can be quite severe.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Lassa fever can cause nausea and vomiting, which may be accompanied by abdominal pain.
  • Diarrhea: Some individuals infected with Lassa fever may experience diarrhea, which can be watery and frequent.
  • Chest pain: Chest pain is a less common symptom of Lassa fever, but it can occur in some cases.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: Lassa fever can cause swelling and tenderness of the lymph nodes, particularly in the neck and armpits.

Fever and Headache

Fever is one of the most common symptoms of Lassa fever virus infection.

The fever is usually high-grade, with temperatures ranging from 38.5°C to 40°C (101.3°F to 104°F).

It can persist for several days, and some patients may experience intermittent fevers with periods of remission.

Headache is another common symptom in patients with Lassa fever. The headache may vary in intensity, from mild to severe, and can be accompanied by sensitivity to light (photophobia) and noise.

In some cases, the headache can be debilitating and impede daily activities. It is important to monitor the severity and duration of the headache, as it can be an indication of more severe complications of Lassa fever.

Other symptoms that may be present in addition to fever and headache include malaise, muscle aches, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and chest pain. These symptoms can vary from person to person and may appear within 1 to 3 weeks after exposure to the virus.

If you experience fever and headache, especially if you have recently traveled to an area where Lassa fever is endemic or have been in contact with rodents, it is important to seek medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve outcomes for patients with Lassa fever.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Lassa fever is a viral infection that primarily affects the gastrointestinal system. The virus can cause a range of gastrointestinal symptoms, which can vary in severity from mild to severe.

Nausea and vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are common early symptoms of Lassa fever. Patients may experience a persistent feeling of nausea, which can lead to episodes of vomiting. These symptoms can be quite distressing and may contribute to dehydration if not managed properly.

Diarrhea: Diarrhea is another common gastrointestinal symptom of Lassa fever. The virus can affect the lining of the intestines, leading to increased fluid secretion and loose, watery stools. Diarrhea can be frequent and may also contribute to dehydration.

Abdominal pain: Some patients with Lassa fever may experience abdominal pain. The pain can be localized to a specific area or may be generalized throughout the abdomen. The severity of the pain can vary and may range from mild to severe.

Loss of appetite: Lassa fever can also cause a loss of appetite. Patients may have a decreased desire to eat and may find it difficult to consume a normal diet. This can further contribute to weight loss and malnutrition.

Digestive system complications: In severe cases of Lassa fever, the virus can lead to more serious gastrointestinal complications. These may include gastrointestinal bleeding, inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), and inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). These complications require immediate medical attention and can be life-threatening.

It is important to note that not all patients with Lassa fever will experience gastrointestinal symptoms. Some individuals may only have mild or no symptoms at all. However, for those who do experience gastrointestinal symptoms, it is essential to seek medical care and proper management to prevent complications and promote recovery.

Respiratory Symptoms

In some cases, Lassa fever can lead to respiratory symptoms. These symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing

If you experience any of these respiratory symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Lassa fever can cause severe respiratory complications, such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

It is also important to note that respiratory symptoms can be present in other respiratory illnesses as well, so it is important to get a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional.

Hemorrhagic Symptoms

Lassa fever is characterized by a range of symptoms, including hemorrhagic symptoms. Hemorrhagic symptoms are the result of the virus causing damage to blood vessels and affecting the body’s ability to clot blood properly. These symptoms can be severe and life-threatening. Some of the hemorrhagic symptoms associated with Lassa fever include:

  • Bleeding: Patients with Lassa fever may experience bleeding from various sites, such as the nose, gums, or gastrointestinal tract. This bleeding can be mild or severe.
  • Ecchymosis: Ecchymosis refers to the formation of larger areas of bruising due to bleeding under the skin. It is a common hemorrhagic symptom in Lassa fever patients.
  • Petechiae: Petechiae are small red or purple spots that appear on the skin or mucous membranes. These spots are caused by bleeding from capillaries and are often seen in Lassa fever patients.
  • Hematemesis: Hematemesis is the medical term for vomiting blood. It is a severe symptom that can indicate significant bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Epistaxis: Epistaxis refers to nosebleeds. Lassa fever patients may experience spontaneous nosebleeds, which can be prolonged and difficult to stop.
  • Hematuria: Hematuria is the presence of blood in the urine. It can occur in Lassa fever patients due to damage to the kidneys or urinary tract.
  • Hemoptysis: Hemoptysis is the coughing up of blood. Lassa fever patients may experience bloody sputum, indicating bleeding in the respiratory tract.
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage: In severe cases, Lassa fever can result in bleeding within the brain, leading to neurological symptoms such as headache, confusion, and seizures.

These hemorrhagic symptoms can be a sign of a severe form of Lassa fever and often require immediate medical attention. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential in reducing the risk of complications and improving patient outcomes.

Neurological Symptoms

Neurological symptoms can occur in patients infected with the Lassa fever virus. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Headache: Many Lassa fever patients experience severe headaches, which can be persistent and debilitating.
  • Dizziness: Some individuals infected with the virus may experience dizziness and a feeling of lightheadedness.
  • Muscle weakness: Weakness in the muscles is a common neurological symptom of Lassa fever. This weakness can affect various parts of the body.
  • Tremors: In some cases, patients may develop tremors, which are involuntary movements of the body.
  • Confusion: Lassa fever can also cause confusion and disorientation in infected individuals.
  • Seizures: Seizures may occur in severe cases of Lassa fever, resulting in uncontrolled convulsions.

It is important to note that not all patients infected with the Lassa fever virus will exhibit neurological symptoms. However, for those who do, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly to prevent further complications.