Lassa Fever: Nigeria’s death toll rises to 57

Lassa fever
Lassa fever

The current Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria has so far killed at least 57 people, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said on Friday.

According to the situation report released by the health agency, 275 cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed in 19 states as of February 3.

The situation report is a weekly update of the trend in the Lassa fever disease across the country. The latest release by NCDC is for week five: January 28 to February 03, 2019.

Since the beginning of the year, 19 states – Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Plateau, Taraba, FCT, Adamawa, Gombe, Kaduna, Kwara, Benue, Rivers, Kogi, Enugu, Imo, Delta and Oyo – have recorded at least one confirmed case across 51 local government areas

Many Nigerian states have since the beginning of the year been witnessing outbreaks of the disease. This prompted NCDC to declare an outbreak of Lassa fever in mid-January.

In the situation report for week five, 68 new confirmed cases were reported from Edo -20, Ondo -22, Ebonyi -7, Bauchi -4, Plateau -4, Nasarawa -1, Taraba -3, Benue -1, Kaduna -1, Kwara -1, Oyo -2, Delta -1, and Rivers -1.

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Also, in the same week, 14 new deaths were report from nine states; Edo -2, Ondo -1, Rivers -1, Plateau -2, Oyo -1, Ebonyi -4, Enugu -1, Taraba -1 and Nasarawa -1.

Since the onset of the outbreak of Lassa fever this year, a total of 731 suspected cases have been reported from 19 states.

Of these, 275 were confirmed positive, three probable, 57 deaths in confirmed cases and 453 negatives (not a case).

This puts the case fatality rate in confirmed cases at 20.7 per cent.

Out of the confirmed cases, four healthcare workers were affected in Edo State in the reporting week five.

This brings the total number of healthcare workers affected since the onset of the outbreak to nine in four states; Ebonyi -1, Ondo -2, Enugu -1 and Edo -5 with one death in Enugu.

Ever since the history of Lassa fever in the country, healthcare workers have always been vulnerable to contracting the disease due to regular contact with patients.

To forestall this, health workers are reminded to follow the international precaution guidelines while attending to patients.

At present, 98 patients are being managed at various hospitals in states with reported cases.

A total of 42 patients are currently in Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH) treatment Centre, 25 in Federal Medical Centre Owo, eight in Federal Teaching Hospital Abakiliki, five in Bauchi, seven in Plateau and other states.

Speaking on efforts made by NCDC to curb the spread of the disease, the Director-General NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said a multi-sectoral one-health national rapid response team comprising of staff from NCDC, NFELTP, Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Federal Ministry of Environment have been deployed to Ondo, Edo, Ebonyi, Plateau and Bauchi states.

He said a total of 2791 contacts have been identified from nine states.

“Of these 2,080 (74.5%) are currently being followed up, and 647 (23.2%) have completed 21 days follow up. 23(0.8.1%) symptomatic contacts have been identified, of which 13 (0.4%) have tested positive,” he said.

Contact tracing is a necessary precautionary step in the control of Lassa fever as the disease transmits from human to humans. People in close contact with a Lassa fever victim may also be infected.

Mr Ihekweazu also said that the National Lassa fever multi-partner, multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) continues to coordinate the response activities at all levels.

Lassa fever is a haemorraghic disease caused by rodents. The disease is transmitted through faeces and urine of rats.

Lassa fever is treatable if diagnosed early and as such Nigerians are advised to visit health facilities when sick.

In view of the foregoing outbreak, Nigerians need to take preventive measures such as keeping their environment clean, making houses free of rodents, washing hands before taking meals and keeping all foodstuff in tight lid containers.

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