Lassa outbreak: Minister blames doctors for infections

Health Minister, Isaac Adewole
Health Minister, Isaac Adewole

The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, on Saturday blamed the increasing number of health workers infected with Lassa fever on their refusal to take necessary precaution while treating patients.

The Minister, who stated this in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, when he paid a courtesy call on Governor David Umahi, described the recent outbreak in the state, which killed four health workers, as unfortunate.

According to the Minister, most doctors treat the deadly disease as if it “is any other ordinary disease” and thus fail to wear protective medical apparels while treating patients.

“What is worrisome is that when doctors and healthcare workers become infected then the country is in danger because every person that will go and meet that doctor or nurse is at risk.

”I want to say that up till today no health care worker has contacted Lassa at Irrua Specialist Hospital, Edo state because if you take precaution, wear gloves before you take blood, wear gloves before you operate, you can’t catch Lassa fever.

“Lassa fever requires close contact between the blood of an infected person and healthcare workers looking after him. Once you wear gloves, wear protective gown, you can’t have Lassa fever. But what we have discovered is that doctors and nurses treat Lassa as if it is just ordinary flu or malaria, but it is not,” the minister said.

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He blamed the delay to fully equip the Virology Centre Abakaliki, which was built and handed over to the federal government, on outbreak of other deadly diseases across the country.

“It quite unfortunate that you handed the centre over to us but because of a few other things we could not respond immediately with the operationalisation of the lab”.

“As we moved to operationalise the lab we had other challenges, we had monkey pox, we had meningitis and it appeared as if in trying to prioritise we thought lassa has calmed down a bit, we decided to quickly address these diseases and also the yellow fever outbreak”, he added.

Responding, Mr.Umahi, represented by his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, said 16 cases have been recorded in the state.

“Nine cases have been confirmed, six are suspected cases, one is a probable index case. Eight of them are at the Virology Centre Abakaliki while one is in Irrua Specialist Hospital, Edo state.”

He noted that three of the confirmed cases have been successfully treated and discharged.

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