You Really Should Know About Lassa Fever … And More.


Fiction Or Not?

Iju Aluko was certain her mother was just having malaria. The windows had been left open for too long and it had been a while they sprayed any insecticide in the house. One can of Raid is almost a thousand naira. That in itself is enough money to make the family a pot of soup for the week.  To eat is more important than to kill mosquito with some chemical that is not always efficient. Mama’s fever was just like that of malaria; it goes up at night and as the day proceeds, reduces a little… nothing three days of antimalarial cannot conquer like Hulk Hogan.

The paracetamol purchased at the chemist shop should take care of the headache and body pain she has been complaining of. Of course, mama said it feels like her muscles are screaming out through her skin, so, that should explain why she is so weak and tired all the time. Besides, using those antimalarial drugs sef is like being flogged with a whip from the evil forest.

“Aunty Iju, is it just me or mama’s eyes are looking yellow, almost like that sickler boy in our church? I first noticed it two days ago, but today, the yellow has become even deeper.”

Ileoma, the baby of the house, was turning the remaining garri with hot water to make eba for the family’s lunch while Iju washed the plates with the ghostly remnants of detergent.

“My dear, it is nothing to worry about. The fever is just very much for mama, that’s why. I hope she has stopped vomiting.”

“She still vomited this morning and I think she has been to the toilet twice.”

“Haba. But, she has barely eaten anything since she woke up. What could she be vomiting and stooling? Or has she taken her drugs?”

Iju did not want to scare her little sister but mama was not responding well to the medications prescribed by the chemist. In fact, she seemed to be getting worse. Ileoma let out a scream as one of the many rats, co-habiting with them, ran across her right foot.

“Ileoma ooo! You want to chase my heart from my chest with your scream? Small rat, you’re behaving like lion touched you. Biko. Is that eba ready?”

The sisters called for their three brothers to come pick their plates of food while Iju took mama’s portion to her in the room.


Maybe Think Beyond Malaria and Typhoid.

The fairly lit room had just one mattress thrown on the floor, to the right of the door. A sewing machine was placed on the left side of the room with different cloth materials strewn all over it. The room stank of sweat, vomit and sickness. Mama’s feverish breath could be heard from the bed where she lay.

“Iju mma, is that you?”

Her mother’s voice had become raspy as the sickness progressed. The warm salt water gargle she did each morning and TomTom sweets she had gotten from the shop across the road were doing nothing to relieve her from the sore throat.

“Mama, I brought your food… how are you feeling?”

“My daughter, I think I need to go to the hospital. My urine was like coke this morning and even yesterday. This sore throat and cough are not allowing me swallow saliva in peace and has your sister told you I’ve been stooling since morning? This does not feel like just malaria again.”

“But, which money will we use?”

Iju’s mother brought out her savings and begged Iju to save her from death because when she slept the night before, death had come in her dreams.


Seek Proper Medical Care

At the hospital, it was confirmed that what they were dealing with was Lassa Fever and not ‘small’ malaria. On her third day on admission, iju’s mother started bleeding from her eyes, nose and ears. It was that same day Iju’s fever also started.

Ileoma and the boys were brought to the hospital and kept in separate wards, away from other patients. It was going to take a while to ensure they had also not gotten the disease, especially Ileoma who still slept on her mother’s bed frequently. Days went and Iju was constantly worried about her mother and siblings. While she was in her isolated ward, she had no one to talk to and the doctors and nurses who came in were almost always in a hurry to step out of her room and out of the protective garments they had to put on. She could not blame them seeing as no one wanted to ‘catch’ what was not theirs.

“Doctor… please… I need to be sure they are alright. Please…”

Before the doctor could answer whether or not he had information on her family and if he was even willing to share, a nurse came in and whispered something to him. Iju saw his eyes dart towards her and quickly move away again.

“Your mother did not make it, unfortunately. I’m so sorry, Iju.”

Iju was not going to cry. Not yet. She needed that energy to survive and also be there for her siblings. Her mother would have expected nothing less from her.

“What of Ileoma?” She did not ask about the boys yet because they were mostly never at home, so, had not been exposed a lot to mama while she was sick.

“Sadly, she has also come down with Lassa Fever but we have commenced her on treatment and we are hopeful about her recovery.”


Infected People CAN Survive.

More days passed and Iju had gotten better and was being congratulated by many for being part of the lucky ones. From her discussion with the doctors and nurses coming in to take care of her, Iju was able to figure out how they came about the sickness


Prevention is Still Key Though.

“God so help me and I survive this disease, I’m stealing Chike’s dad’s gun and shooting all those rats. Of course, they would urinate in our food, seeing as we just put them in nylons and not sealed containers. Doctor, what next after I’ve massacred those vermin?”

“You have to clean up your environment too, so, that they won’t come back. I know you are planning to kill them and they sure won’t come back to life but some may escape, others from another area may come around if the surroundings are not kept clean.”

“Okay, sir. So, throw our dustbins away or burn them or bury them, cover our foods well, clean the house and surroundings, cook food properly, what else?”


Ignorance is Not Allowed!!!

I am certain majority of my readers were alive during the Ebola episode in Nigeria six years ago, well, unless you died prior to that and then resurrected again. So, we are aware of the panic we felt and the fears we experienced for ourselves, families and friends. We also recall the heroes who put themselves in risky positions and sacrificed their lives for our sake.

What many of us may not have done is read up on Ebola and its family members; the Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. Maybe the medical students, doctors, nurses and other core members of the healthcare team did and also the naturally inquisitive ones.

Now, we are faced with Lassa Fever. What do you know about it? Apart from knowing it can kill people, what else do you know? Do you know how it is spread? Do you know the symptoms it can come with? How about how to prevent it? Have you read up on it? Are you aware of the affected states so far? How many reported cases and how many deaths? Or you think it is not your business?

You can protect yourself and many others if you’re armed with knowledge.

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