Indiscriminate handling of rodents and some cultural practices: their possible role in the spread Lassa virus (LV) in Edo State, Nigeria
Background: The traditional healer/spiritualist is consulted for various services ranging from treatment of diseases to the procurement of charms/placement of curses/and or lifting. Speculations are rife that rodents which may include species of Mastomysare used by traditional doctors in Edo state, Nigeria for the preparation of a charm used to place a curse on another person. The rodent, Mastomysnatalensis is known to cause a fatal viral haemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever and this disease is endemic this state. Sporadic outbreaks have been reported.
Aim: To explore the knowledge of study participants on rodents as vector of lassa fever virus and its use for the making of charms by traditional native doctors. Also to find out the perceived measures that will be effective in convincing all those who handle the rodent indiscriminately on the dangers inherent in the practice including contracting Lassa fever (LF) and spreading the Lassa virus (LV).
Design: A cross sectional study
Method: The study tool was a questionnaire designed to examine the knowledge about the rodent as the vector for the LV, the reason for the choice of rodents and its use for the preparation of a charm, why the curse is placed on individuals and measures perceived to be effective in the enlightenment of every one of the dangers of handling the rodent.
Result: Two hundred and forty-one volunteers participated in the study. One hundred and twenty-four were males and 117, females aged between less thantwenty and sixty years and above. Seventy-two (29.9%) were aware that the rodent is of utility in the preparation of a charm to place a curse and a significantly higher level of awareness was associated with lower levels of education (P<0.001). Forty-six (63.9%) of those who were aware that the rodent is used to make a charm say it is common knowledge, 20(27.8%) attested to the fact that they got to know from friends and 6(8.3%) said they heard of it from neighbors. Some of the reasons volunteered to warrant the curse include jealousy, envy instinctive hatred etc. The rodent is said to be available on sale in some open markets in Benin City, Edo state in Southern Nigeria.
Conclusion: Indiscriminate handling of rodents which may include species of Mastomysraises substantial concern regarding potential risk of rodent-borne zoonoses particularly the spread of LV and; also negate control efforts against the spread of LF in Edo State. Control programs designed carefully to effectively implement enlightenment campaign without transgressing the culture and customs of the people is advocated. This will have to be with the full cooperation and participation of relevant stakeholders.
Key words: rodents,hunting,charms, rodent-borne zoonosis,