23 new Lassa fever cases confirmed in Nigeria

A map used to illustrate the spread of Lassa fever across states in Nigeria
A map used to illustrate the spread of Lassa fever across states in Nigeria

The current Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria has killed at least 114 people this year, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said on Saturday.

From January 1 to March 17, a total of 1801 suspected cases were reported from 21 states. Of these, 495 were confirmed positive, 15 probable and 1277 negative (not a case).

In January, NCDC declared a Lassa fever outbreak in the country.

The weekly situation report from NCDC for week 11 shows that 23 new confirmed cases were reported from nine states; Edo – 8, Ondo -4, Ebonyi 3, Bauchi -3, Taraba -1, Imo 1, Enugu 1, Benue -1 and Kebbi -1 States.

Four new deaths were also reported in three states for the week. The states are Edo -2, Benue -1 and Bauchi- 1 states.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, there have been 114 deaths, taking the case fatality ratio in confirmed cases to 23 per cent. This, however, represents a significant drop in both confirmed cases and death as compared to week 10.

Also, in the reporting week 11, one new health care worker was affected in Ebonyi State. This brings the number of health care workers who have been infected with the disease to 16.

The 16 health workers infected were reported from seven states; Edo – 7, Ondo- 3, Ebonyi- 2, Enugu- 1, Rivers – 1, Bauchi- 1 and Benue 1 with two deaths in Enugu and Edo state.

The number of deaths recorded in 2019 is almost three-quarters of the total recorded from the disease in 2018.

The annual report by NCDC last December showed that there were 171 deaths with 3,493 suspected cases in 23 states in 2018.

Worryingly, Lassa Fever outbreaks usually peak around June.

The Director-General of NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said 73 local government areas in 21 states have recorded at least 1 confirmed case as at week 11.

The states are Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Plateau, Taraba, FCT, Adamawa, Gombe, Kaduna, Kwara, Benue, Rivers, Kogi, Enugu, Imo, Delta, Oyo, Kebbi and Cross River.

Currently, 63 patients are at various treatment centres across the country. Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital treatment centre has the highest number of patients with 26 undergoing treatment. The Federal Medical Centre, Owo has 16, Federal Medical Centre Abakaliki 10; Nasarawa 1; Bauchi- 1; Plateau 3; Taraba 4; and others 2.

According to the NCDC, 590 contacts have been identified from 19 states. Of these, 2353 are currently being followed up, 3384 have completed 21 days follow-up, while four were lost to follow up.

So far 84 symptomatic contacts have been identified, of which 49 have tested positive.

Contact tracing has been identified as one of the crucial strategies in curtailing the spread of the disease.

Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness which is been transmitted to human via contact with rodent or human to human transmission. Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission also occur particularly in hospitals due to lack of adequate infection prevention and control measures.

NCDC said the National Lassa fever multi-partner, multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre continues to coordinate the response activities at all level.

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