CEO, NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu

Martins Ifijeh

The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has called on Nigerians to treat cerebrospinal meningitis as a medical emergency, as it is a fatal disease that does not give room for first aid treatment.

It said while diagnosis and treatment must be prompt to increase survival, symptoms to watch out for include fever, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, altered level of consciousness, budging of the fontanelle in infants, excessive crying in infants, high pitched cry in infants, and refusal to feed in infants.

Stating this during the NCDC/Media Parley for health editors in Lagos recently, the Assistant Director, Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Department, NCDC, Dr. Olaolu Aderinola, said, CSM, which affects all age group is a disease characterised by the swelling of the protective membrane covering the brain and the spinal cord.
He said: “Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate treatment is started, around eight per cent to 15 per cent of patients die often within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of treatment.

“If untreated, meningococcal meningitis is fatal in 50 per cent of cases and may result in brain damage, hearing loss or disability in 10 per cent to 20 per cent of survivors.”

He explained that risk factors promoting the disease include smoking, high atmospheric temperature, low humidity, living in crowded areas, close and prolonged contact (such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone) or living in close quarters with a carrier.

On prevention, Aderinola said: “Preparedness strategy is done at health facilities, local government areas level, state and NCDC. Other preventive methods are health education, personal hygiene, vaccination, enhanced surveillance, and prompt diagnosis and treatment.”

He said complications from CSM include hearing loss, speech loss, vision loss (partial or total), seizures, disseminated intravascular coagulation (blood-clotting disorder), encephalitis, persistent fever, syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone, among others.

He also stated that for Lassa fever, even though about 80 per cent of those infected will have mild or no symptom, it was best it is prevented through the culture of keeping the environment clean and away from rodents.

“About 80 – 90 per cent of humans are infected through rat to human exposure. Food or household items contaminated by rat urine or faeces are the common ways the disease is transferred to humans. And in cases of infection, one in five people will develop a severe disease.

“Risk factors include poor environmental hygiene, poor personal hygiene, poor storage of food stuffs, inadequate awareness of Lassa fever, break down in IPC measures, and low index of suspicion.”

He however noted that NCDC will continue to do its job of tackling the various diseases under its watch.
On his part, the Head, Risk Communication, NCDC, Dr. Olufemi Ayoola has called for increased collaboration between the centre and the media for the purpose of addressing disease outbreaks in the country.

He said the parley would help build the capacity of the media to report and raise awareness on its five priority epidemic prone diseases (CSM- Cholera, Yellow Fever, Lassa fever and Measles).

“The role of the media will help in educating the public on what they can do to reduce risk factors associated with the various diseases monitored by the centre.”