The pain is usually sharp and sudden and death is usually swift. The swiftness of death which rides on mice which are nowhere near the top of the animal kingdom`s best athletes catch young people especially cold. It is the fate of young people at the hands of such a lethal liquidator that should worry health experts, the Nigerian authorities and Nigerians as a whole. Yet, the alarm bells do not appear to be tolling loudly enough or if they do, then Nigeria`s multitude of those who are hard of hearing are predictably not listening.
Yet, again, it is the statistics which shine a dark light on the lethality of lethal fever and otherwise mask the pain and suffering that go into the making of these figures of fatalities.
At the height of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Controlled assailed terrified Nigerians with numbing numbers marking how a novel disease was neutralizing populations around the world. With time passing and with many Nigerians failing to see their streets overflowing with the dead as many experts predicted, incredulity creeped in to the interpretation of the reports by the NCDC. With time, skepticism and cynicism joined the fray.
But even as its trembling hands were filling with data about the devastation of the virus first detected in Wuhan, China, the NCDC still had time for small fish. On the side, it was still doling out data on Lassa fever infections around the country and warning Nigerians that an enemy much older than Covid-19 was still lurking, watching their every move.
Figures have emerged again and this time, they not only sicken, they horrify. Nigeria recorded 102 Lassa fever deaths from a total cumulatively from week 1-52 of 2021 in 38 Local Government Areas of 17 states. The states affected included Edo with 212 cases, Ondo with 175 cases, Bauchi with 39 cases, Taraba with 22 cases, Ebonyi with 18 cases, Plateau with nine cases, Benue and Kaduna with eight cases each, Enugu with five, Nasarawa, Kogi and FCT with three cases each, and Cross River, Imo, Anambra, Delta and Abia with one case each. We are not even two weeks into the new year but already there have been deaths from Lassa fever.
When in an epic demonstration of the potency of African prejudice, the World Health Organisation eponymously described a novel viral hemorrhagic fever caused by a virus in 1969 from a case in the town of Lassa in Borno State as `Lassa fever’, Nigeria bristled at the description. The indignation of the Giant of Africa was further inflamed when the WHO balked at describing the emergent Corona virus first traced to Wuhan China as the ‘Wuhan virus’ or ‘Chinese virus’.
The symptoms of the disease which is common in West Africa include fever, weakness, headaches, vomiting and muscle pains. The main vector is an infected multimammate mouse and contact with its urine or feces can precipitate an infection which could then spread through people-to-people contact.
If the figures from the NCDC truly alarm, it is because Nigeria`s historic struggles with data collation and interpretation is well documented meaning the number of fatalities from Lassa fever may be well north of that which alarms health experts.
What is to be done? Nigerians must learn to take proper care of themselves. Particularly, mice must be kept away from people. At the end of the day, it all comes down to a question of proper and adequate hygiene. With many of Nigeria`s neighbourhoods which habour the poor overpopulated and deprived of WASH facilities, keeping up sufficient hygiene is indeed a daunting task.
But Nigerians must do all they can to keep the virus away. For many, it could prove the difference between life and avoidable deaths.