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Friday, January 15, 2016
Lassa fever kills doctor as FG begins vaccine trial
A medical doctor, Living Jamala, working with the Rivers State-owned Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital has died of Lassa fever.
This is just as the Federal Government has started processing a trail vaccine.
According to the Punch, Jamala was said to have died in the early hours of Thursday after being kept in an isolated ward at the BMH and later transferred to Irua Specialist Hospital in Edo State.
The demise of the doctor brings to three the number persons that have succumbed to Lassa fever in Rivers State in the last three weeks.
It will be recalled that a nursing mother and her two-week old child died of the disease towards the end of 2015.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Theophilus Odagme, said on Thursday that the late Jamala, who had attempted to treat a case of Lassa fever in December 2015, might have been infected in the process.
Odagme added that although the latest victim of the disease was in the isolation ward at the BMH, he was transferred to a specialist hospital in Irua, Edo State at his family’s insistence.
The commissioner, who spoke through his Press Secretary, Mr. Paul Bazia, expressed sadness over the development and said that the state government was putting measures in place to stop the spread of the disease.
In a related development, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, has said a trial vaccine for Lassa fever is currently being processed and will be administered if found to be effective and safe for human consumption.
Adewole said this in a presentation before the Senate Committee on Health in Abuja on Thursday.
The minister explained that the current outbreak began in a village in Niger State sometime in August 2015, but patients were not treated properly due to the ignorance of the villagers.
He explained that the villagers had a superstitious belief that the deaths were as a result of the construction of a new market.
According to him, they believed that each time a new market is built, some people must die for it to prosper and that if anybody talks about the deaths he or she would also die.
Adewale said it was when the son of the village headmaster died that health authorities in Minna were notified and investigations led to the discovery of the outbreak.
He pointed out that by the time data was collected in December 2015, 17 people were already dead.
The minister said, “We call it a candidate vaccine, we have to run it through trial and it will take some time. Hopefully, we will do it this year; if we consider it to be effective and safe, we will put it to use. For now, the vaccine is actually prevention.
“The disease is endemic; endemic means that it is there but occasionally it flares up. I call it a national embarrassment because it has been with us since 2012. What has happened under the current administration is that we are not hiding it; we want to tackle it head-on
“Last year alone, we recorded 441 cases of Lassa fever. What we missed is the situation in Niger and before we got to know, we had lost 17 people unfortunately.”