Health

Nigeria moves to curtain outbreak of Lassa Fever

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The Federal government has said it would pay closer attention to the health of its citizens by offering free treatment to victims of the latest outbreak of Lassa fever, an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus.

Africa’s most populous country is setting up two field clinics and dressing medics in biohazard suits to deal with the disease that has so far killed 43 people of which the number of suspected cases also rose from 86 last week to 93.

The Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole told newsmen that health workers are also tracing victims and the people they touched as well.

He said they cannot say exactly how many people have contracted the virus recently. “However, the good news is that there have been no new confirmed cases or deaths in the last 48 hours.

Adewole also advised that family members should report at the nearest hospital if anyone has fever for more than two days.

The minister, however called on the residents of Abuja not to panic but to maintain high level vigilance and present themselves for test if they feel unhealthy or they feel symptoms of Lassa fever which include high fever, stooling, tiredness, vomiting, among others, adding that self-medication should be avoided at this period. This call was made due to the death of a 33-year-old newly married man who lived in Jos, Plateau State, who travelled to see a family member in Kubwa because of his illness. He however died within 24 hours of presentation at the national hospital. The first case of the current outbreak was reported from Bauchi in November 2015.

The director of the country’s Center for Disease Control, Abdulsalami Nasidi, said they are doing the needful to stop the spread. He said the current outbreak is believed to have started in December.

This year’s Lassa outbreak touches a nerve for Nigerians and their government. The country was among the seven nations that saw Ebola cases in 2014. Though only seven people in Nigeria died from Ebola, the virus’s arrival sparked considerable panic. The latest Lassa outbreak has stirred similar memories.

Lassa fever is far more benign than Ebola, even if the symptoms—fever, vomiting, and bleeding of the mouth—are the same. As many as 300,000 people each year contract the viral illness, which is endemic to West Africa, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only about 1% of those victims die from the illness, which isn’t airborne and is usually spread by close contact with infected people and rodents.

It will be recalled that Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses. It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with rodent excreta. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa. Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in the hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control measures. Diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential.

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