Lassa Fever: We’re Not Facing an Epidemic Yet, Says FG

  • As one person dies in Bauchi, two other cases reported

Paul Obi in Abuja and Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

Contrary to a report by the Lancet Infectious Diseases that Nigeria, alongside India and Indonesia are prone to full fledge outbreak of epidemics, the federal government saturday said the country is not facing any epidemic yet, neither are there indicators of such magnitude of outbreak.

Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. ChikweIhekweazu yesterday told THISDAY that though there have been established new cases of Lassa fever in some states, it cannot be rated as an outbreak of epidemics.

“Some cases have been recorded of Lassa fever in some states at the moment, but we can’t say we are facing an epidemic, that’s not an epidemic yet. I hope it doesn’t get there. The most important thing now is to have a high index of suspicion, do a rapid test for malaria, if it’s not malaria, it could be something worse.”

Speaking on the Lancet Infectious Disease journal which named Nigeria as one of the three countries prone to the Zika virus (beside India and Indonesia), Ihekweazu explained that the journal did not stipulate a particular period of such outbreak, adding: “It does refer to weeks, which means we must pay attention on preventive institutions. We will continue to do our best, I can’t say we are fully prepared for everything.”

Also speaking, a government official, who pleaded for anonymity said already, “the government has issued guidelines on how to prevent Lassa fever, particularly in the North-east. So, it is not just an issue of public health, it is individual. We should try and improve personal hygiene, we should try and clean our environment.

“To start with, the first thing is information; citizens need to be aware of what they are dealing with. We don’t want people to be scared of Lassa fever, people can have malaria, people can have Lassa fever, but if you don’t treat it early enough, it becomes risky.

“We have stocked medicines, states are supposed to take charge of Lassa fever. States should be able to dictate Lassa fever, and they should be able to do that. States should be able to collect samples. All the states have to put in place the mechanism for dictation, collection of samples,” the source maintained.

On the risks associated with Lassa fever, the source contended that, “when people do not report on time the risk is very high, the most important information is early dictation, secondly, that there is treatment, it is also important that health workers take standard precaution infection, prevention and control seriously. All cases should be treated under standard prevention approach.”

Meanwhile, one person has been confirmed dead and two other cases suspected of Lassa fever have been reported in Bauchi State.

Pharmacist Ibrahim Gamawa, head of the Bauchi State Primary Healthcare Agency confirmed the cases in Bauchi yesterday. He said the victim from Dul ward in TafawaBalewa Local Government died from the fever on his way to hospital.

Gamawa said the other two suspected cases were from Alkaleri Local Government and LimanKatagum in Bauchi Local Government area of the state. He said the state ministry of health is collaborating with the AbubakarTafawaBalewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH) to handle the Lassa fever cases as it has been done in the past.
He disclosed that the state government and the Federal Ministry of Health has been constantly liaising to monitor the situation since the resurgence of Lassa Fever in recent times.

He added that health workers in the state, especially in the rural areas have been trained on how to be vigilant to detect the early symptoms of the fever. He said a sensitisation campaign in the media and other channels is being carried to sensitise people on the disease and how to avoid it.
Bauchi is among five states said to have recorded new cases of the fever in recent months.