The Minister of Environment, Mohammad Abubakar, has advised Nigerians to stop eating rats for now as 29 deaths cases have been recorded due to Lassa Fever outbreak in the country.
Mr Abubakar gave the advice, while briefing journalists on the ongoing Lassa Fever outbreak in the country on Monday in Abuja.
He said Lassa Fever is transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated with rodents (rat) urine or faeces.
“Nigeria is currently experiencing Lassa fever outbreak in several parts of the country with reported cases of fatalities.
“Latest report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) released on January 25 has it that 195 confirmed cases and 29 deaths have been recorded in 11 states of Nigeria.
“Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Delta, Taraba, Plateau, Bauchi, Ogun, Abia, Kano and Enugu.
“Out of the confirmed cases, 89 per cent are from Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi states.
“It is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness. It can also be transmitted from person to person through contact with blood, urine, faeces and other body fluids of an infected person,” he said.
He said it was against this background that the ministry organised the press briefing to respond to the increasing number of Lassa cases across the country and to sensitise the general public on it preventive and control measures.
“The ministry is making efforts in collaboration with NCDC and other stakeholders in tackling the Lassa fever scourge.
“Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria and often associated with poor sanitary hygiene practices with cases being recorded all year round.
“It virus is transmitted by rodents (rats) which can be found in our environment including homes, motor parks, offices and places of worship.
“This contributes largely to the risk of spread that occurs in Nigeria and other countries with similar ecological factors.”
He said early symptoms are fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, sore throat among others.
“It is in very severe cases that the patient bleeds from body openings; maturity period of Lassa fever ranges from six to 21 days.’’
The minister said before the recent outbreak, the ministry had taken proactive measures to improve the overall general sanitation and hygiene situation in the country.
He said the ministry in 2019 established Sanitation Desks in all the 36 states of the country.
Mr Abubakar said these sanitation desk officers were to coordinate sanitation and related activities within their states, liaise with their respective Local Government Environment Departments and report back to the Federal Ministry of Environment.
“They are also expected to monitor and report Lassa fever cases and other environmental determinants of diseases to the Federal Ministry of Environment headquarters. The sanitation desks are to be replicated in all 774 LGAs in the country.
The minister said in 2019, the ministry with the support of WHO and in collaboration with NCDC carried out environmental sanitation response activities to Lassa fever outbreak in Edo and Ondo states.
“Activities undertaken include rodents’ control, `deratisation’, sensitisation, education of community members on Lassa fever prevention/control measures, premises inspection, distribution of fumigation equipment and chemicals, waste bins and rodent traps.
Mr Abubakar said he had directed all environmental health professionals in the federal, state and local government to immediately re-embark on
massive awareness campaign on the need to keep the environment clean.
“They should conduct surveillance of premises to identify rodents, harbourage, destroy/eradicate rodents in homes, commercial and industrial premises.
“Effective pest and vector control services in residential and commercial premises, notably, deratisation of market places and homes among others.’’
He advised citizens to imbibe good sanitation and hygiene practices and take preventive and control measures that include keeping the environment clean to avoid contact with rodents.
“Keeping food away from rodents, storing grains and other food stuff in rodent proof containers, disposing wastes regularly, far away from homes and cooking all foods thoroughly.
“Blocking rat hideouts to avoid/stop eating rats as much as possible, washing hands regularly with soap and running water.
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