The Ministry of Health says the death toll of Lassa fever has risen to 41 from the 93 suspected cases. The spread of the rodent transmitting virus which causes Lassa hemorrhagic fever is on the rise, leading to more deaths in Nigeria. The Lassa virus which was first described in 1969 in a town called Lassa, in Borno State, has taken several lives in the past weeks since its recent outbreak. The victims in the death toll include a Nursing Mother And Her Two Weeks Old Baby In Port Harcourt, among other Nigerians.
Just like Ebola, there are several clinical cases of the disease which is yet to be connected with a viral pathogen. However, the Federal Government says Lassa fever has claimed 41 lives from 93 reported cases in 10 states of the country. There has also been an Outbreak Of Lassa Fever InTaraba State, in which the government had ensured that the situation will be controlled. However, it is getting worse.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, confirmed this, on Tuesday 12th January, at a joint ministerial news conference on the update of Lassa fever. The minister assured the public that his duty and that of the committee, which comprises of the ministers of Education, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Environment, Information, Culture and Health, is not to blame anyone for the outbreak. Rather it is to observe, learn and document the learnings which will be very instrumental in planning an immediate effective responsive.
According to Adewole, the number of the suspected cases has risen from 86 to 93. He also said that part of the long term response is to establish an inter-ministerial committee to handle Lassa fever and other related diseases. He advised communities to improve on their hygiene, including food hygiene and food protection practices to ensure that the virus does not spread further. He also urged the public to avoid contact with rodents and rats as well as food contaminated with rat’s secretions and excretions.
Avoid drying food in the open and along roadsides, it is also important to cover all foods to prevent rodents contamination,’’ he said.
The minister said that those affected states have been advised to intensify awareness creation on the signs and symptoms of the disease. According to him, the affected states are Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo.
The public is hereby assured that government and other stakeholders are working tirelessly to address the outbreak and bring it to timely end,’’ the minister assures.
Minister Adewole also said the ministry had ordered for the immediate release of adequate quantities of “ribavirin’’, the specific antiviral drug for Lassa fever, to the affected states for prompt treatment of cases and that Nigeria has the capability to diagnose Lassa fever, as all reported cases so far were confirmed by our laboratories.
The first case of the current outbreak was reported from Bauchi in November 2015, and as at last Friday, there was a death toll of 40 out of 86 reported cases of Lassa fever outbreak in same 10 states, as reported by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). However, Adewole says there were no new confirmed cases of death recorded in the last 48 hours, although he did not mention the state from which the additional life was lost.
In the last 48 hours the government raised a four-man expert committee, chaired by Prof. Michael Asuzu, to visit Kano, Niger and Bauchi, the three most endemic states. The committee will embark on a fact-finding mission, assess the current situation, document response experiences, identify gaps and proffer recommendations on how to prevent future occurrences,’’ he said.