6 Nigerian health workers test positive to Lassa fever

The six persons were among the 11 doctors and five nurses who were rushed to the virology laboratory in Irrua, Edo, for testing.

The Ebonyi Commissioner for Health, Sunday Nwangele, said on Tuesday that six medical staff of the Federal Teaching Hospital, FETHA, Abakaliki, had tested positive to Lassa fever.

Mr. Nwangele confirmed to journalists in Abakaliki that the six persons were among the 11 doctors and five nurses who were rushed to the virology laboratory in Irrua, Edo, for testing.

The state chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, last Thursday announced that 11 doctors and five nurses had contracted the disease after participating in a clinical operation on a pregnant woman in the hospital.

The state NMA Chairman, Chidi Esike, told journalist at a news conference in Abakaliki that the woman and her baby died a few days after they were discharged from the hospital.

Mr. Esike also said that the state had recorded 25 deaths due to Lassa fever since 2005, adding that many of them were medical personnel.

Commenting on the development, the commissioner said: “No live was lost except for the pregnant woman and her baby through whom the health workers contracted the disease.’’

“The 16 patients were rushed to Irrua when they were discovered to be resistant to Malaria fever treatment, and six of them have been confirmed positive through a laboratory test.

“They are now undergoing intensive care treatment; and they are all stable.

“But I want to say that it is not every case of resistance to Malaria fever treatment that is Lassa fever case,’’ he said.

Mr. Nwangele said that the joint committee set up by the state Ministry of Health and FETHA on Lassa fever had evolved a two-way approach for treatment of the disease.

According to him, the method is short and long-term control measures.

“On the short-term approach, the suspected patient is administered with prophylaxis tablets, while on the long-term control the patient that is clinically down receives injectable drugs.

“The state government is partnering with FETHA on the short-term control method, while government has in this regard donated tablets and personal protection equipment to affected patients.

“The state would not accept being an endemic state, and has mapped out a land for the construction of a virology laboratory in Abakaliki,’’ he said.

Mr. Nwangele noted that most of the Lassa fever cases in the area were imported, and manifest in form of “operateable cases’’.

He said that the pregnant woman through whom the health workers contracted the disease was not from the state.

“We were contacted with the dermatology team to determine her close contact and how she got the disease.

“I want to advice the public to always keep their environment clean, avoid exposing edibles to rats; if possible exterminate all rats around them,’’ he advised.


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