NCDC Activates National Emergency Response against Lassa Fever

0
  •  As disease claims 26 lives

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated the national multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary Lassa fever Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in response to the Lassa
fever outbreak in some parts of the country.

A statement issued on Wednesday by the Director General of the NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, said the measure has become necessary given the increase in the number of confirmed Lassa fever cases across the country and a joint risk assessment with partners and sister agencies.

He said that as at January 23, 2022, a total of 115 confirmed cases with 26 deaths (a case fatality ratio of
22.6%) have been reported, adding that the cases were reported from 30 local government areas across 11 states.

“Furthermore, the reports in weeks 1 and 2 showed the highest number of confirmed cases recorded in the last four years for the same period,” he said.

Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated by rodents infected with Lassa fever virus.

Person-to-person transmission can also occur, particularly in a hospital environment with inadequate infection control measures.

Adetifa said that NCDC is working with relevant ministries, departments, health agencies and partners to strengthen the capacity of states to effectively manage this outbreak alongside COVID-19 and other diseases of public health relevance.

He also said that risk communication activities are ongoing through radio, posters, flyers and social media.

The Federal Ministry of Environment is also implementing a Lassa fever environmental response
campaign in high burden states.

While explaining the nature of the symptoms of the disease, Adetifa said Lassa fever initially presents itself like any other febrile illness such as malaria, adding that its symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pains, chest pain and in severe cases, unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and other body openings.

He further explained that the time between infection and the appearance of symptoms of the disease is three to 21 days.

He however said that early treatment and diagnosis increases the chances
of patients survival.

In the statement, NCDC advised Nigerians to ensure proper environmental sanitation at all
times, blocking all holes in the house to prevent rats from entry.

Also people are advised to cover their dustbins and dispose of refuse properly, while communities are enjoined to set up dumpsites very far from their homes to reduce the chances of having rodents within homes.

NCDC also urged the public to store foodstuff like rice, garri, beans, corn/maize, etc in containers that are well covered with tight-fitting lids and avoid drying foodstuffs outside on the floor, roadside where they will be exposed to contamination.

It said that the people should avoid bush burning which can lead to the displacement of rats from bushes to human dwellings.

“They should eliminate rats in homes and communities by setting rat traps and other means, practise good personal hygiene by frequent washing of hands with soap under running water or use of hand sanitisers when appropriate and visit the nearest health facility if you notice any of the signs and symptoms of Lassa fever as mentioned earlier and avoid self-medication.

“Healthcare workers are also advised to practise standard precautions and to maintain a high index of suspicion at all times. Ensure appropriate use of personal protective equipment any time there is a risk of body fluid exposure. This is critical for breaking the chain of transmission of the disease. Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) must be performed for all suspected cases of
malaria,” it said.

The NCDC boss said that like several other countries in West Africa, the disease is endemic in Nigeria and is often recorded during the dry season, often between November and May.

Since 2016, NCDC said boss it has worked hard to improve diagnostic capacity for the disease.

He also said that currently there are seven laboratories that can conduct confirmatory tests for Lassa fever in Nigeria coordinated by the NCDC National Reference Laboratory (NRL).

According to the DG, this has improved active case detection for the disease.

Similarly, care for affected individuals has improved with NCDC, “providing support to states including the provision of emergency medical and laboratory supplies, as well as oral and intravenous Ribavirin for preventive and curative treatment to treatment centres across the country”.

He added that NCDC is participating in
the largest-ever Lassa fever study that aims to provide an accurate assessment of the incidence of the disease in West Africa.

“This will also accelerate the development of vaccines and therapeutics for Lassa fever. These are supported by the Coalition for Epidemic
Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the Wellcome Trust.

“To support and strengthen the response efforts of states, NCDC has continued to deploy Rapid Response Teams (RRT) as required in states. The RRTs through the State Public Health Emergency Operation Centres (PHEOCs) work with states across all response pillars to
strengthen preparedness and response activities.

“This includes outbreak investigation,
contact tracing, response coordination, case management, psycho-social care for infected people, risk communication, and infection prevention and control activities,” he said.