The study assessed the emotional reactions and perceptions of stigmatization among family caregivers of Lassa fever patients. Six focus group discussions were held among 48 purposively selected and consenting family caregivers in a Lassa fever treatment facility in South-South Nigeria during an outbreak. An interview guide structured to elicit views and perceptions on Lassa fever, reactions to the news of a positive result stigma, sources of emotional and social support was used for data collection. Data were transcribed, coded, and analyzed along thematic areas. Awareness of Lassa fever was high among the participants. Reactions to a positive test result included emotions of panic, denial, anxiety, and fear. Some respondents expressed their unwillingness to disclose a positive test result; some felt Lassa fever was stigmatized in the community and by healthcare workers. Majority turned to religion as a source of emotional support. Family caregivers of Lassa fever patients experienced varied emotional reactions upon receipt of the news of a positive test result. Some caregivers had been stigmatized by health workers or feared stigmatization at community level. Psychosocial support was obtained from religion and emotional support from survivors and isolation ward healthcare workers. Community health education should be sustained to avoid stigmatization of victims. Pre- and post-test counselling, access to relevant information and psychosocial support should be made available family care givers.
Key words: Fear, Lassa fever, stigma.