Benin - No less than 100, 000 lives were lost to Lassa fever in 44 years in Nigeria, Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor, Chairman, Laboratory Council of Nigeria, said.
He disclosed this on Tuesday in Benin while delivering a public lecture organised by the College of Medical Sciences, University of Benin.
The lecture was entitled “A 44-year–old Deadly Public Health Burden in Nigeria”.
``The ravaging scourge of Lassa fever in Nigeria in the last 44 years - from 1969, when the first case of Lassa fever was recorded to 2013 - has claimed more than 100 000 Nigerians,’’ Aghonlahor said.
He noted that there are only two Lassa fever diagnostic centres in the country, and urged the Federal Government to establish such centres in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
He said the two existing centres are at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital and Lahor Reseach laboratory and Medical Centre, both in Edo.
According to him, establishing more centres wIll help to reduce the number of lives being lost to the illness.
He described Lassa fever as a “serious viral disease that affects the blood, liver and spleen, and similar to the fever caused by Ebola and Marburg viruses.
He said that the virus is spread by multimammate rats, called M.natalensis.
``The rat is characterised by a hairless tail, and has between 14- 16 breasts; the tail is as long as the length of its body.
``The virus is contained in the urine and faeces of the rat and spreads to humans through direct contacts with contaminated materials and infected persons.
“Symptoms of the disease include fever, malaise, muscle pains, sore throat, cough, diarrhoea, vomiting and headache.
“The disease is endemic in Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Congo, Mali and Senegal,’’ he said.
He said that new cases were discovered in nine states in the country in 2013, adding that 11 persons had, so far, died from the illness.
Aghonlahor called for sustained enlightenment campaign on Lasser fever to ensure drastic reduction in rodent-human contact and human-human transmission.