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Monday, January 11, 2016
Lassa fever death toll hits 40, 86 cases reported –FG
The Federal Government on Friday in Abuja said the mortality rate of the re-emergence of Lassa fever has increased to 43.2 per cent and has claimed the lives of five more people.
With the development, the death toll has now hit 40 as against 35 that was recorded on Thursday, thereby bringing the total number of reported cases to 86.
According to Punch, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, at a news conference, also stated that two more states, namely Plateau and Gombe, had been affected by the disease, which is in its sixth week. Meanwhile, laboratories have confirmed 17 cases, which are indicative of a new outbreak of the disease as 80 per cent of human infections are asymptomatic.
Adewole said, “The total number of reported cases, so far, is 86 while there have been 40 deaths, with a mortality rate of 43.2 per cent. Our laboratories have confirmed 17 cases, indicative of a new roundtrip of Lassa fever outbreak.”
According to him, modalities have been put in place to curb the spread of the disease, which can also occur and be transmitted in health facilities where infection prevention and control practices are not observed.
The measures, according to the Minister, include “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, “We have deployed rapid response teams from the ministry to all the affected states to assist in investigating and verifying the cases, as well as tracing contacts. Clinicians and relevant health workers had been sensitised and mobilised in areas of patient management and care in the affected states, as well as intensifying awareness creation on the signs and symptoms, including preventive measures such as general hygiene.”
Adewole said Nigeria has the capability to diagnose Lassa fever as all reported cases were confirmed in the nation’s 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,” he added.
He, therefore, advised the public to “avoid contact with rodents/rats as well as food/objects contaminated with rats’ secretion and excretions.”
He urged the public to “also avoid drying food in the open and along the roadside.”
He said the World Health Organisation had been notified of the confirmed cases while calling on health care workers, who are expected to ensure that all patients are treated freely, to immediately contact the state epidemiologists in the state ministry of health or call the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Federal Ministry of Health.
Lassa fever is an acute febrile illness, with bleeding and death in severe cases, caused by its virus, which has an incubation period of six to two days.
About 80 per cent 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 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.
Meanwhile, Lassa fever panic has hit Plateau State as cases have been reported in five local government areas of the state. One person has already been reported dead in Jos, the state capital.
Although the area where the person died was kept in guided secret, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Kuden Kamshak, said some cases were reported in Jos North, Mangu, Langtang South, Pankshin and Shendam local government areas of the state.
Kamshak said that the state government had established Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers in each of the 17 local governments in the state to monitor and manage the problem before it escalates into an epidemic.
Kamshak, while addressing newsmen in Jos on Friday, said, “We are also working with medical experts from the World Health Organisation, which is assisting the state to curb the spread.”