Nigerian health authorities have announced the death of a Lassa fever victim in Abuja, the first fatality in the nation’s capital since the latest outbreak in November 2015.
The minister of health, Isaac Adewole, made the announcement Wednesday evening at the National Hospital, the press director, Boade Akinola, at the health ministry, said in a statement.
The medical director of the hospital, Jack Momoh, who briefed the minister, said the patient was brought in unconscious from a private hospital in Kubwa, a suburb of Abuja, where he had been admitted for eight days.
The 33-year-old newly married lived in Jos, Plateau State, but travelled to see a family member in Kubwa because of his illness. He however died within 24hours of presentation at the national hospital.
The statement said the minister had directed that all primary and secondary contacts of the victim, including the staff of the private hospital in Kubwa, an Abuja suburb, where the deceased was first managed for one week before referral to National Hospital, be tracked.
He also advised that family members should report at the nearest hospital if anyone has fever for more than two days.
The minister, however called on the residents of Abuja not to panic but to maintain high level vigilance and present themselves for test if they feel unhealthy or they feel symptoms of Lassa fever which include high fever, stooling, tiredness, vomiting, etc., adding that self-medication should be avoided at this period.
The latest death from Lassa fever brings the total number of deaths to 43 in the country (from 10 states).
The government said on Tuesday that Lassa fever, an acute viral illness, had claimed 41 lives from 93 reported cases in 10 states of the country.
The first case of the current outbreak was reported from Bauchi in November 2015.
Mr. Adewole said at a news conference on Tuesday that the government had raised a four-man expert committee, chaired by Michael Asuzu, a professor, to visit Kano, Niger and Bauchi, the three most endemic states.
“The committee will embark on a fact finding mission, assess the current situation, document response experiences, identify gaps and proffer recommendations on how to prevent future occurrences,” Mr. Adewole, a professor, said.
The minister assured the public the task of the committee was not to apportion blame but rather to document lessons learnt for better planning of an affective responsive.
According to Mr. Adewole, part of the long term response is to establish an inter-ministerial committee to deliver a final blow on Lassa fever and other related diseases.
The committee comprises the ministers of Education, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Environment, Information and Culture as well as Health.
He advised communities to improve on their hygiene, including food hygiene and food protection practices.
He also urged the public to avoid contact with rodents as well as food contaminated with rat’s secretions and excretions.
According to him, the affected states are Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo.
“The public is hereby assured that government and other stakeholders are working tirelessly to address the outbreak and bring it to timely end,” said the minister.
He said the ministry had ordered for the immediate release of adequate quantities of “ribavirin”, the specific antiviral drug for Lassa fever, to the affected states for prompt treatment of cases.
Mr. Adewole said Nigeria had the capability to diagnose Lassa fever, adding that “all the cases reported so far were confirmed by our laboratories”.