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FG appeals for public support in fighting Lassa fever

07 January 2016, 17:00Emeka Okonkwo

Abuja - Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole, has outlined measures government is taking to contain the deadly outbreak of the Lassa fever (LF).

Some 35 people have been reported dead in the last six weeks after an outbreak which has so far affected a number of states such as Bauchi, Edo, Kano, Oyo Nassarawa, Niger, Rivers and Taraba.

Adewole said the government would continue to enhance its surveillance and social health education, information and communication activities to prevent the disease from spreading further in Nigeria.

“I wish to call for the support and understanding of all Nigerians,” said the minister.

He said the World Health Organization (WHO) is being notified of the cases confirmed.

“I wish to seize this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the WHO and other partners for the support so far,” said Adewole.

He said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is already coordinating all our response activities and reporting to him on a daily basis.

The total number of suspected cases so far reported is 76, and a Case Fatality Rate (CFR) of 46 percent.

Laboratories have confirmed14 cases, indicative of a new episode of Lassa fever outbreak.

Also read: Lassa fever kills mother, 2-week-old baby in Rivers

The first case of the current outbreak was reported from Bauchi in November.

This was followed by cases reported by Kano State, and subsequently the other states mentioned above.

Lassa fever is an acute febrile illness, with bleeding and death in severe cases, caused by the Lassa fever virus with an incubation period of 6-21 days. About 80 percent of human infections are asymptomatic; the remaining cases have severe multi-system disease, where the virus affects several organs in the body, such as the liver, spleen and kidneys.

The onset of the disease is usually gradual, starting with fever, general weakness, and malaise followed by headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and bleeding from mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract, and low blood pressure.

In response to these reported outbreaks, the ministry has taken some measures to curtail further spread and reduce mortality among those affected.

Among these is the immediate release of adequate quantities of ribavirin, the specific antiviral drug for Lassa fever to all the affected states for prompt and adequate treatment of cases.

There has been deployment of rapid response teams from the Ministry to all the affected states to assist in investigating and verifying the cases and tracing of contacts.

Clinicians and relevant healthcare workers sensitized and mobilized in areas of patient management and care in the affected states.

Affected states have been advised to intensify awareness creation on the signs and symptoms and general hygiene.

“Furthermore, it is important to note that Nigeria has the capability to diagnose Lassa fever and all the cases reported so far were confirmed by our laboratories,” said Adewole.

However, because the symptoms of Lassa fever are so varied and non-specific, clinical diagnosis is often difficult, especially early in the course of the disease. 

- CAJ News


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