KNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDE AND PERCEPTION OF LASSA FEVER AMONG PEOPLE ATTENDING PHC
1.1 Background of Study
Lassa fever is one of the diseases for which weekly epidemiological reporting to the health authorities is being done in Nigeria. A rapidly changing epidemiological pattern had been reported over the years (Ogbu, Ajuluchukwu and Uneke, 2007). It causes mortality and morbidity where outbreaks occur worldwide including Nigeria where it was first identified in 1969. Lassa fever is caused by a single stranded RNA virus (Healing and Gopal, 2001; Johnson et al.,1987). The main feature of this fatal infection is impaired or delayed cellular immunity leading to fulminant viraemia, usually starting as fever of unknown origin (Chen and Cosgriff, 2000). The natural host for the virus are multimammate rats (Mastomysnatalensis), which breed frequently and are distributed widely throughout West, Central, and East Africa (Healing and Gopal, 2001). Both zoonotic and human to human contacts are possible (Ogbu, Ajuluchukwu and Uneke, 2007). Population movements, poor sanitation, overcrowding, inadequate resources to manage victims and poor epidemic preparedness are some of the factors contributing to disease outbreak (WHO,2000). Increasing international travel and the possibility of use of the Lassa virus as a biological weapon may have escalate the potential for harm beyond the local level, and stressed the need for greater understanding of Lassa fever and more effective control and treatment programs. Osun State is geographically close to Edo State that has persistently been having the highest number of both suspected and confirmed cases of LF in Nigeria in past years (NCDC,2012). With the symptoms of LF mimicking that of malaria which is endemic in Nigeria, the potential of missing the diagnosis of LF is high. Primary care workers in both public and private clinics are often the first set of personnel to handle suspected cases of Lassa fever which is also a possible source of nosocomial infection. In situation where health workers are not adequately equipped with requisite knowledge and materials to handle cases of LF, transmission and outbreak of the infection is likely. This informed the choice of Primary Health Care (PHC) workers as respondents in this study.