The Federal Ministry of Health says more than 40 people have died as a result of the outbreak of Lassa fever in 12 states of the federation.
The Minister of State for Health, Muhammed Pate, disclosed this at a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday.
The states include Edo, Nassarawa, Plateau, Ebonyi, Taraba, Yobe,Ondo, Rivers, Gombe, Anambra, Delta and Lagos.
Mr. Pate said that the disease was first reported in endemic states of Edo, Nasarawa, and Plateau from where it was subsequently exported to Lagos, Port Harcourt and Yobe.
He described Lassa fever as an acute febrile illness, with bleeding and death in severe cases, caused by the Lassa virus.
It has an incubation period of between six and 21 days to manifest in patients.
“The ministry through it surveillance system started to see cases of this in isolated manner but those cases accumulated, so far there are 397 suspected cases of which about 40 individuals have lost their lives unfortunately as a result of this viral disease.
“We are very fortunate that we have reference laboratories in our country that can actually diagnose this illness in good time
“The Iwu Specialist Hospital in Edo State and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital are very well equipped and have been able to identify and diagnose these cases and that has contributed to the promptness of our response in terms of this cases of Lassa fever.’’
Mr. Pate said the ministry had taken drastic measures to curtail further spread of the disease and reduce mortality among the affected persons.
He said the ministry had released adequate quantities of ribavirin injections to all the affected states for prompt treatment of cases, stressing that rapid response teams had also been deployed to the affected states.
Ribavirin injection is the specific anti-viral drug for Lassa fever.
The health minister added that relevant health personnel had been sensitised and mobilised in areas of patient management and care.
“The ministry has also distributed protective gloves as safety equipment for healthcare workers because it is a virus where if health workers are not protected when handling a case they can also get infected and that is an area that we can prevent.
“The area of health education, what we are doing here today interacting with the media is part of the effort to sensitized Nigerians, we don’t want to know when a situation has gotten worse and what protective measure people can take.
“Do not allow the rodent, host of this virus to come into contact with either food or with human habitation and there are practices that can be taken to prevent that from happening for instance.
“The rodent live in bushes around houses these are not the usual rodents, rats that live within people houses these are rodent that live outside the houses and when people either burn bushes or allow bushes to grow around their houses.
“The rodent may be force to come into contact with their food, with where they live or with water that get them to start to transmit this to people, people need to be aware of that.’’
Mr. Pate said all health facilities in the country were directed to emphasise on routine barrier nursing precautions and to ensure free treatment of patients.
He advised family members and healthcare workers to avoid contact with blood and body fluids while caring for infected persons.
“It is important to note that, the virus is not spread through casual contact, including skin to skin contact without exchange of body fluids.”