Nigeria has registered an upsurge in the number of Lassa Fever cases since the beginning of the year, with 365 positive cases and 47 deaths reported from 23 states across the country.
According to week five situation report on the disease released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Wednesday, the number of states reporting at least a case of the disease rose to 23 from 19 in the previous week.
The 23 states are Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Borno, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Adamawa, Cross River, Delta, Osun, Ogun, Abia, Taraba, Plateau, FCT, Gombe, Enugu, Kebbi and Anambra.
Three states, Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi, remain the states with the most affected cases.
However, there was a reduction in the number of new deaths (six) in the reporting week as compared to the previous week where 19 deaths were reported.
In the data released by NCDC, new confirmed cases have increased from 95 cases in week four to 104 cases.
These were reported from 15 states (Ondo, Edo, Ebonyi, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Delta, Taraba, Plateau, Bauchi, FCT, Gombe, Enugu, Kebbi and Anambra).
Also, one new health care worker was affected in Delta State. Five health workers had been reported among the dead from the disease in the previous weeks from Kano (3), Taraba (1) and Borno (1).
NCDC said, cumulatively from the beginning of the year, Nigeria has reported 47 deaths from the outbreak, with a case fatality rate of 12.9 per cent.
Also, the number of suspected cases has significantly increased when compared to that reported for the same period in 2019.
“In total for 2020, 23 states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 74 Local Government Areas. The predominant age-group affected is 21-30 years and the male to female ratio for confirmed cases is 1:1.2,” it stated.
Lassa Fever has become a yearly occurrence in the country. This has been raising concerns among health experts who believe Nigeria is not making enough conscious efforts to combat it.
Due to the yearly death of their members from the disease, the Association of Resident Doctors called on the federal government to declare a state of emergency on Lassa fever.
The association said it has become a yearly occurrence for them to lose their colleagues to the disease as they are often the first responders to Lassa fever patients.
They said health workers are susceptible to infection with the disease because health facilities are poorly equipped.
“Declaring an emergency is owing to the poor preparedness in response to our health institution in handling cases of Lassa fever,” they said.
The doctors’ call comes less than a week after its mother association, Nigeria Medical Association, and a virologist, Oyewale Tomori, made a similar submission.
Mr Tomori had said the government is not doing enough in finding a lasting solution to the yearly outbreak.
He said Nigerian leaders seem to be less concerned about the disease because most of the people contracting it are the masses.
Nigeria has been embarking on more curative measures as there is no vaccine for the disease.
Meanwhile, the NCDC in its yearly response to combating the disease said it has activated the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate response activities across affected states.
It also said that the five molecular laboratories for Lassa fever testing in the NCDC network are working at full capacity to ensure that all samples are tested and results provided within the shortest turnaround time.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) caused by the Lassa virus. The disease is transmitted from the multimammate rat to humans. It also spread through human to human transmission.
Lassa fever is transmitted from the excreta or urine of the multimammate rat. Anyone suspected of contact with a Lassa patient needs to be presented to the health facilities within 21 days.
Lassa fever at early stages presents symptoms similar to fever or malaria.
Symptoms of the disease generally include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pains, chest pain, and in severe cases, unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, vagina, anus and other body orifices. It could also present persistent bleeding from sites of intravenous cannulation.
Early diagnosis and treatment increase a patient’s chances of survival.