Monday, 11 January 2016

Fresh Lassa Fever Hits Nigeria

11 Jan 2016
The Federal Ministry of Health has confirmed that out of the 76 victims of Lassa fever outbreak, 35 had lost their lives.
This disclosure came as panic spread across the country with 10 states said to be battling to curtail the spread of the disease.
The affected states are: Bauchi, Nassarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo.
The Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, in a statement issued in Abuja in response to the outbreak of disease in the country, said “the total number of suspected cases so far reported is 76 with 35 deaths, and a Case Fatality Rate of 46 per cent.”
But the federal government yesterday said the impact had not reached the magnitude which the disease could be declared a national emergency.
Project Director, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Prof Abdulrahman Nasidi, told THISDAY in an interview that it would be too hasty to declare a national emergency given the current level of the disease.
Nasidi said: “The current Lassa Fever: it has not reached that level to declare a national emergency. We can confirm that it is Lassa Fever and the federal government is assisting the states to prevent further spreads. “We are also working hard building more isolation wards in hospitals, putting in place prevention strategies, training and capacity.”
Nasidi informed THISDAY that the current panic among the public and expectation that Lassa Fever will be declared a national emergency similar to the Ebola outbreak was uncalled for given that the level of impact was still at a minimal level.
The Health Minister, Prof. Adewole, has however assured Nigerians of government’s readiness to stem further spread of the haemorrhagic fever now confirmed by laboratories to be Lassa Fever Viral Disease.
According to him, “the public is hereby assured that the government and its partners, and other stakeholders are working tirelessly to address the outbreak and bring it to timely end.”
Adewole said: “It is important that I notify the nation through you, that in the last 6 weeks Nigeria has been experiencing Lassa fever (LF) outbreak which has so far affected 10 states. The States affected include Bauchi, Nassarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo States. The total number so far reported is 81 and 35 deaths, with a mortality rate of 43.2%. Our laboratories have confirmed 17 cases, indicative of a new roundtrip of Lassa fever outbreak.
“The first case of the current outbreak was reported from Bauchi in November, 2015. 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. Lassa fever was first detected in Nigeria in 1969.The number of recorded cases peaked in 2012 when 1,723 cases with 112 fatalities were recorded. It has continued to decline since then.
“About 80% 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.
The minister explained that “the reservoir or host of the Lassa virus is the “multimammate rat” called Mastomys natalensis, which has many breasts and lives in the bush and peri-residential areas.
“The virus is shed in the urine and droppings of the rats (and) can be transmitted through direct contact, touching objects or eating food contaminated with these materials or through cuts or sores. Nosocomial transmission also occurs in health facilities where infection prevention and control practices are not observed. Person to person transmission also occurs most especially when a person comes in contact with the virus in the blood, tissue, secretions or excrements of an infected individual.”
He stressed that “in response to these reported outbreaks, the Federal Ministry of Health under my leadership has taken the following measures to curtail further spread and reduce mortality among those affected: 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.”
He said it also included deployment of rapid response teams from the Ministry to all the affected states to assist in investigating and verifying the cases as well as tracing of contacts, clinicians and relevant healthcare workers had been sensitized and mobilized in areas of patient management and care in the affected states.
Meanwhile, affected states have been advised to intensify awareness creation on the signs and symptoms including preventive measures such as general hygiene.
“Furthermore, it is important to note that Nigeria has the capability to diagnose Lassa fever. All the cases reported so far were confirmed by our laboratories. However, due to the non-specific nature of Lassa fever symptoms and varied presentations, clinical diagnosis is often difficult and delayed, especially in the early course of the disease outbreak,” Adewole said.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) is being notified of the cases confirmed, and I wish to seize this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the WHO and other partners for the support so far. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is already coordinating all our response activities and reporting to me on daily basis,” the minister assured.
He advised that healthcare workers seeing a patient suspected to have Lassa fever should immediately contact the State Epidemiologist in the state ministry of health or call the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Federal Ministry of Health using the following numbers: 08093810105, 08163215251, 08031571667and 08135050005.

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