The death toll from the Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria has hit 216, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said.
While Nigeria and the rest of the world are focused on containing the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the nation is also struggling to put an end to the Lassa fever.
Nigeria, since January, has been battling the scourge of Lassa fever n the country.
An epidemiological report from NCDC for week 25 shows that 1,036 people have so far contracted the disease with 216 deaths.
While COVID-19 is a new global disease with less epidemiological information, Lassa fever has become endemic in Nigeria. The country has battled it annually for the past 50 years.
Although the infection rate for Lassa fever outbreak in the country has slowed down, the spread of COVID-19 virus has continued to increase.
As of Friday, Nigeria recorded a total number of 23,298 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 554 deaths.
NCDC had declared the Lassa fever outbreak emergency phase for this year over on April 28.
The public health agency said this emergency phase was declared over based on “composite indicators national threshold”.
The NCDC said since the onset of the 2020 Lassa outbreak, the country has recorded 5,134 suspected cases, 1,035 confirmed cases and 216 deaths.
For the reporting week 25, 55 suspected cases were reported with five confirmed cases and two deaths recorded. These were recorded in four states – Ondo, Edo, Taraba and Plateau.
The number of new confirmed cases was the same as recorded in week 24 (five cases).
NCDC said cumulatively for weeks 1 to 25, Nigeria has recorded 216 deaths with a case fatality of 20. 8 per cent.
So far, 27 states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 129 local government areas.
The five states with the highest number of confirmed cases are: Ondo with 343 cases and 59 deaths; Edo with 334 confirmed cases and 39 deaths; Ebonyi with 76 cases and 22 deaths; Taraba with 57 cases and 22 deaths and Bauchi with 44 cases and 20 deaths
According to NCDC, the predominant age-group affected is 21 to 30. In the gender ratio, the males are more infected than females.
Meanwhile, one new health worker from Ondo was infected for week 25. This brings the total number of health workers who have contracted the virus, so far this year, to 41.
While confirmed cases have slowed down for the year, NCDC said the number of suspected cases has significantly increased compared to that reported for the same period in 2019.
Lassa Fever is a hemorrhagic disease transmitted by a vector called multimammate rat. The virus is transmitted from the excreta or urine of the vector to humans, and from humans to humans.
There has been a gradual reduction in new cases reported across the country since April.
This is a steady pattern for the Lassa fever outbreaks in the country. The disease, although, diagnosed all year round, peaks in the dry season from November to May.
This could be as a result of the rains in some parts of the country especially in places with a high burden of the disease.
However, there has been a steady increase in the number of infections in the country in the past few years.
Meanwhile, the NCDC Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu, had earlier said this was due to the improvement in disease surveillance, detection, reporting and testing capacity in the country.
He said though there is no vaccine for the disease, it is curable.
Early diagnosis and treatment increase a patient’s chances of survival, he added.
Anyone suspected of being in contact with a Lassa patient needs to be presented to the health facilities within a period of 21 days.
Symptoms of the disease at early stages are similar to febrile illness such as malaria.
General symptoms 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.