Lassa Fever Cases Rise to 317, Surpass 2017 Total

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  • Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi account for 85% of cases

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed that the cases of Lassa fever from January 1 this year have risen to 317 as of February 25, exceeding the total number of confirmed cases recorded in 2017.

The Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, in a statement wednesday, said three states – Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi – account for 85 per cent of the Lassa fever cases presently.

Ihekweazu said given the unprecedented outbreak, the NCDC has raised the activation of its Emergency Operations Centre to its highest possible level.

He said with the escalation, all the resources available to the agency would be focused primarily on controlling this outbreak.

He also stated that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners are also mobilising resources to support activities of the centre and the states most affected.

The NCDC boss recalled that the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had in the recently held Emergency Council of Health meeting in Abuja, called on all states in the country to escalate their response activities.

He said: “Given the present circumstances, he requested that each state urgently invest resources in protecting the health of residents of their states by carrying out risk communication activities to inform residents on simple measures to prevent infection, and what to do when they become ill. Healthcare workers across the country have also been re-educated on Lassa fever, especially in recognising early symptoms to ensure rapid referral for appropriate care and on the use of universal precautions to protect themselves and their patients.

“With the activation of the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja, the testing capacity in Nigeria has increased from two to three laboratories. This is in addition to the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, which were the only two laboratories with the capacity to diagnose Lassa fever. Efforts are currently being made to ensure that there is a functional molecular laboratory with the capacity to test for Lassa fever in each of the six geopolitical zones in the country. “

Ihekweazu said despite the challenges, the federal government, through the centre and its partners, have ensured that every patient diagnosed with Lassa fever has gotten appropriate treatment.

Also, he said healthcare workers in the major treatment centres at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Owo and the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki have received adequate supplies of personal protective equipment to manage their patients from government and partners.

He also called on all Nigerians, especially those living in Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi States to continue to focus on prevention by ensuring they prevent access to their foodstuff by rodents.

“For those that fall ill with fever, it is important to go to a health care facility in order to get a test that will determine the cause of the fever, before treating it.”

Ihekweazu said NCDC, with the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health, remains committed to working with sister agencies and partners to ensure that this outbreak is brought under control and Nigeria is better prepared to prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks.