Lassa Fever: We’ve five functional laboratories for diagnosis – NCDC

National coordinator, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu [Photo: Health News Extra]
National coordinator, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu [Photo: Health News Extra]

Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says it has five functional molecular laboratories for diagnosing and detecting Lassa fever in the country.

The Director General of the centre, Chikwe Ihekweazu, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja that the laboratories are located at NCDC’s National Reference laboratory in Abuja, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo, Federal Medical Centre Owo in Ondo State, Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki and Lagos University Teaching Hospital.”

Mr Ihekweazu, a medical doctor, said “presently, samples from suspected Lassa fever patients from South-South states and some states in the South-West are tested at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital; while samples from South-East states are tested at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki.

“Samples from states in the North are tested at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory Abuja and samples from South-West states are tested at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, while Federal Medical Centre, Owo in Ondo State, the newest laboratory, collects samples from Ondo State only.”

The NCDC boss noted that the five laboratories in Nigeria had the capacity to diagnose Lassa fever in the country.

He added that each laboratory costs about N100 million to equip initially, and millions of Naira to maintain functionality.

He explained that NCDC had established a sample transportation mechanism to ensure that samples were sent from state capitals to designated laboratories.

The director general, who said laboratories were critical to reducing turnaround time between identifying a suspected case and confirmation, noted that each laboratory provided diagnostic support for a number of states in the country.

“This is to ensure prompt case management and other response activities, thereby reducing the number of deaths.”

According to him, Nigeria is contributing to research and other activities for the development of a Lassa fever vaccine.

He said the NCDC headquarters, laboratories in the three main treatment centres in the country — Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Owo and Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, as well as the Virology Laboratory of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, are contributing to the research.

Mr Ihekweazu added that the laboratories would also play key roles in the Lassa fever epidemiological study that would provide data to guide research and response activities.

He, however, said the study would begin before the end of March 2020.

Meanwhile, 25 persons have so far died from haemorrhagic fever, while over 100 patients have been quarantined at designated treatment
centres across the country after being infected with the disease, caused by virus from rodent urine and faeces.

(NAN)

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