Lassa Fever Emergency Period Over, Says FG

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• Sets up working group on Ebola risk in Nigeria

Paul Obi in Abuja

The federal government thursday said Nigeria’s Lassa fever emergency period was now over, giving room for a review and strategic preventive planning.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, stated this thursday while giving update on Lassa fever outbreak in the country.

The minister told journalists that “we are pleased to announce that following epidemiological review by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation, the emergency phase of the Lassa fever outbreak is over.

“You may recall that since the beginning of January 2018, we have experienced the largest Lassa fever outbreak in history. As at May 7, 2018, we had 423 confirmed cases and 106 deaths was recorded.”

Adewole explained further: “The Lassa fever outbreak provided an opportunity for us to review and strengthen our public health system across disease preparedness, detection, surveillance and response.

“The Federal Ministry of Health through NCDC activated an Emergency Operation Centres that worked extensively to coordinate outbreak response activities. We also supported the establishment of EOCs in the high burden states of Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi.

“Rapid Response Teams were deployed to States with cases where we supported enhanced surveillance activities, case investigation, management of cases and other response activities.
“During this outbreak, we supported the full operationalisation of the Virology Centre at the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki and the development of its laboratory as a testing site. We have now grown from two laboratories in January 2017, to four laboratories in January 2018 with the capacity to test for Lassa fever.

“The Federal Ministry of Health also supported further development of infrastructure at the three main treatment centres- Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Owo and Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki.”

He added that “the end of the outbreak does not mean we will no longer record cases of Lassa fever. Given the epidemiology of the disease in Nigeria, there will still be reports of cases. However, we are now better prepared and have a stronger response architecture.

“One of our medium-term strategies which has already begun includes a nationwide training of healthcare workers on Lassa fever case management and diagnosis by NCDC and Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital.

“The first phase which covered all States in the South West of Nigeria ended in Akure on May 4, 2018. We are going to the South-east from May 14, 2018.

On Ebola virus, Adewole said: “We are also aware of the outbreak of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo following an announcement by the country on May 8, 2018.

“The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is currently coordinating a national working group that is assessing and managing the risk to Nigeria.

“We are in close communication with our partners including the World Health Organisation, who are in Congo to monitor and respond to the situation.

“The Port Health Services Unit has been placed on red-alert and will heighten screening measures at ports of entry. Letters of alert have also been sent to all states to enhance surveillance activities and an advisory note for the public.”