Senate probes efforts by Nigerian govt to stop spread of Lassa fever

Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.
Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.

The Senate on Thursday asked its Committees of Health (Secondary & Tertiary) and Primary Health Care & Communicable Diseases to investigate steps taken by the Federal Ministry of Health to curb the spread of Lassa fever in Nigeria.

This followed the adoption of a motion on ‘Urgent need to support the Centre for Research, Control and Treatment of Lassa Fever disease in Nigeria’, sponsored by Clifford Ordia (PDP, Edo Central) and Lanre Tejuosho (APC, Ogun Central).

Lassa fever, according to World Health Organization, is an acute viral heamorrhagic illness of two to 21 days duration that occurs in West Africa and is transmitted to human through contact with or exposure to food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces.

Person to person infection and laboratory transmission can also occur particularly in hospitals lacking adequate infection prevention and control equipment.

The Senate expressed sadness at the outbreak of the fever now ravaging many states Nigeria, including Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Imo, Kogi, Bauchi, Federal Capital Territory, Abia, Ekiti and Delta.

Leading the motion, Mr. Ordia said since the outbreak of the disease on January 5 when the first case was reported, suspected cases have risen to 363 as against lesser number of cases recorded last year.

“Of the 363 cases, 81 persons tested positive, 44 persons admitted at the Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH), while 11 death of which three are health workers have so far been recorded in the Lassa Fever Ward of the Centre.

“The Institute is the only Centre in Nigeria known for excellence in the management, control and treatment of Lassa fever in Nigeria. The Centre received samples from all states referred above for the purpose of examination and treatment.

“The Centre also engages in the training of Health care workers, such as Doctors, Nurses and Laboratory Technologist on the management of Lassa fever in Nigeria. Last year alone, the Center trained 67 Health workers from 15 states with reported cases of outbreak”, he said.

Mr. Ordia further expressed worry that the Centre is overwhelmed by the number of samples received, including patients on admission which have stretched the bed space, beddings, Dialysis Machine, X-Ray equipment, Ultra Sound Scan, ECG Machine, Ventilators monitors, human and financial resources beyond limit.

He said the Centre does not have adequate protective instruments for the health workers engaged in the management of victims, drugs such as Ribarvirin for patient’s treatment, disinfectants and other infection prevention and control consumables as well as lack of operational vehicles, Public Address System and Health Education Materials for contact tracing and community sensitization.

The Senate thereafter resolved to: “Urge the Federal Government through the Ministry of Health to urgently provide the Center all necessary equipment to enable it meet its responsibilities to Nigerians seeking medical care at the center” and to “urge the Ministry of Information and National Orientation to engage in the sensitization and education of the public on the prevention, control and treatment of Lassa fever.”

It further resolved to “urge the National Emergency Management Agency (N EMA) to quickly visit the Centre for on the sport assessment with a view to providing relief materials for the victims at the Centre.”

The senate also urged “the National Assembly to make provisions in the 2018 budget for the prevention and treatment of the disease.”

It also resolved to set up additional zonal centres for the screening and treatment of the disease.

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