The Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has given reasons why the Lassa fever scourge has continued to ravage the state in the last few years despite government’s efforts to stem it.
In a broadcast to the state on Tuesday, the governor said the disease continued to reoccur because citizens continue to indulge in harmful practices that encouraged it.
In the last few weeks, 16 persons have been confirmed dead, while over 80 cases have been recorded.
Medical officials have also not been spared in the casualties.
At an emergency meeting on Tuesday, the government assessed the situation and resolved to intensify action to immediately stem the tide.
PREMIUM TIMES reports that the designated medical facilities in Owo and Akure were already at breaking point following the inflow of patients from affected areas.
The areas affected include Akoko South West, Owo, Akure South and Ondo West local governments.
Mr Akeredolu, in his address, noted Ondo State was currently experiencing an outbreak of Lassa fever.
He described it as a highly serious infectious disease that had been in Nigeria for some years.
“It is a disease that is caused by an organism and spreads to man by rats,” he said.
He said the outbreak had been occurring regularly over many decades, “but had increased in magnitude in the last few years.”
“Sadly, within the few weeks of this year, several scores have been affected and some had died from the disease,” the governor said. “We will like to use this opportunity to commiserate with families who have lost their loved ones, and we wish those who are on treatment a speedy recovery.”
Mr Akeredolu noted that the government had not relented on adopting necessary measures to address it, even though the challenge had been recurring over the years.
He said his administration over the past one year had taken several steps to curtail the outbreak.
These, he said, included “the inauguration of a special multi-sectoral committee to address the outbreak, embarking on aggressive waste management campaign, providing adequate human, financial and material resources to treat patients and follow up care of contacts and relatives, establishing and equipping the State Infectious Disease Hospital, Creating awareness and public enlightenment in affected communities.”
“In spite of all these efforts, the state still finds itself once again at the throes of another serious outbreak,” he lamented. “One important reason for this is the fact that some of our citizens still indulge in habits that continue to encourage this disease to spread.”
“The poor attitude to waste disposal which leads to a sharp increase in rat population in many affected communities.
“Bad and harmful food processing practices, such as sun-drying of garri and other products on the road, as well as other places which lead to their contamination by rat droppings.
“Reluctance of those affected to access health care in designated treatment centres. Poor personal and domestic hygiene, bush burning by farmers which drive the rats to our homes, embalment of corpses at home as well as other harmful cultural practices,” he added.
Mr Akeredolu said unless these habits and practices were jettisoned, it would be very difficult to completely overcome the challenge that Lassa fever posed to the state.
“Currently, our government has stepped up efforts to sensitise the populace about the disease through massive community awareness creation,” he said.
“In addition government has continue to provide free treatment to all patients that present with this disease in our treatment centres.
“We will like the public to note that this disease is totally treatable; indeed so far several patients have been treated and fully recovered.
“However, it is important for those affected to come early to hospitals, where experts can quickly make the correct diagnosis and treatment can be commenced early.
“On our part, government is determined that the yearly occurrence of this outbreak is finally brought to end. In order to achieve this, the State government has already taken certain important steps,” he said.
“We are aware that, in order to succeed, we need the cooperation of the entire citizenry to ensure that we rid our homes and communities of dirt and the rats that now threaten our health. We count on the support of all our traditional and religious leaders to join hands with government in achieving this goal.
“We like to express appreciation of government to all Health Care Workers and other professionals who are at the frontline of this fight against Lassa fever. We will continue to prioritize their welfare and safety in the discharge of their duties.
“Once again we will like to reiterate our total commitment to ensure that Ondo state people live a healthy and fulfilled life,” the governor said.