Nigeria recorded the largest outbreak of Lassa fever in its history between 2015 and 2016, with 273 reported cases resulting to 149 deaths, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, said on Friday
Chikwe Ihekweazu, Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, said this in a statement in Lagos.
Mr. Ihekweazu said the cases were reported from 23 states.
He said following this, the Minister of Health inaugurated a Lassa Fever Eradication Committee, under the leadership of a professor, Oyewale Tomori.
It said that the committee was to look into the situation and proffer solutions to the NCDC towards preventing future outbreaks and reducing the deaths from the disease.
According to Mr. Ihekweazu, the committee came up with an approach that focused on strengthening the capacities and capabilities of states to prevent, detect and respond to Lassa while the NCDC coordinates the efforts.
”The prepositioning of commodities has now ensured that all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria have a full complement of emergency materials.
”The materials comprising Personal Protection Equipment, Ribavirin, Disinfection sprayers, hand sanitizers, hypochlorite (bleach), case definition posters, hard copies of IDSR technical guidelines and safety boxes,” it said.
The statement said that NCDC had dispatched a team of epidemiologists to support Ogun State to respond to the recent outbreak where a case of Lassa fever was confirmed in a healthcare worker, who died later at the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta.
”Emergency Operations Centre has been setup and is now monitoring all contacts of the case, disinfecting contaminated areas and coordinating all response activities.
”This case highlights the risk Lassa fever still poses to the lives of Nigerians, particularly at this time of the year,” it said.
The Ogun State Government also said on Friday that 396 people who had contact with the deceased heath worker are being monitored.
“All the 396 contacts have not shown any abnormal symptoms or signs of Lassa fever, their temperature is under control and we have stationed our monitoring officer with each of the contacts to continue monitoring throughout a specific period in line with the World Health Organisation standard,” health commissioner Babatunde Ipaye said.
In his statement on Friday, Mr. Ihekweazu added that a nationwide risk communications plan had also been developed.
”Throughout the dry season, a new communication plan would address priority antecedents of Lassa Fever outbreak to ensure prevention is guaranteed,” he said.
He said the communication targeted all key stakeholders, from presidency to households, and would emphasise on the ways to prevent Lassa fever infection.
”The Lassa virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with infected rodent urine or faeces.
”Lassa can also be transmitted from human to human through contact with the body fluids of an infected person.
”The key messages to Nigerians are, firstly protect your food items from access to rats using whatever means that you can afford- refrigerate, cover, store properly.
”Secondly if you do have a fever, insist on getting tested for malaria using a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) – remembering that not every fever is malaria.
”No healthcare worker can diagnose malaria without a test, and it is the right of every Nigerian to demand a test,” it said.
He urged healthcare workers to always apply standard infection prevention and control precautions when caring for patients, regardless of their presumed diagnosis as the healthcare setting could be particularly risky.