Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said 29 deaths have been reported in 11 states out of the 195 confirmed cases of Lassa fever in those states.
A statement issued by the agency on Saturday and signed by its Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said NCDC had activated a National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate response activities.
It said: “As at the 24th of January 2020, 195 confirmed cases and 29 deaths have been reported in 11 states. Of the confirmed cases, 89% are from Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi States. The increase in the number of cases at this time of the year is not unusual due to ecological factors”.
The National EOC includes representatives from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Environment, World Health Organization, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control, and other partners.
According to NCDC, it will continue to support states in strengthening their preparedness and response capacity.
It said that over the last three weeks, NCDC had deployed Rapid Response Teams to support five of the affected states.
The statement said that the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire had led a high-level delegation to Kano State on Saturday following the deaths of two health workers infected with Lassa fever.
In addition, NCDC said it had rapidly increased risk communications and community engagement activities to ensure that Nigerians are aware of the risks of Lassa fever and measures to protect themselves.
The NCDC statement claimed that there had been a decline in the fatality rate of reported Lassa fever cases from 23.4% in 2019 to 14.8% this year.
“NCDC continues to support treatment centres across states in the country to effectively manage Lassa fever cases.
“In addition, five laboratories in Nigeria have the capacity to diagnose Lassa fever in Nigeria. These laboratories are critical to reducing turnaround time between identifying a suspected case and confirmation. This ensures prompt case management and other response activities, thereby reducing the number of deaths,” it said.
It further said that Nigeria was contributing to research and other activities for the development of a Lassa fever vaccine.
The agency said NCDC and the three main treatment centres in the country- Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Owo and Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital Abakalilki- were set to commence Lassa fever epidemiological studies that will provide data to guide research and response activities.
Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria and cases are recorded all year round. The Lassa fever virus is transmitted by rodents which can be found in in environment. .
Lassa fever is largely transmitted through contact with items or surfaces contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats. It can also be transmitted from person-to-person through contact with blood, urine, faeces and other body fluids of an infected person. To minimise the risk of infection, members of the public were advised to ensure their environment was always kept clean to avoid contact with rodents.
Early symptoms includes fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, sore throat etc. It is in very severe cases that the patient bleeds from body openings. If a patient does not respond to treatment for malaria or other febrile illnesses after 48 hours, it is important to test immediately for Lassa fever, the agency said.