18 January 2013

Nigeria: Lassa Fever Outbreak - FG Sends Intervention Teams to Ondo, Benue

Abuja — The Federal Ministry of Health has sent health experts to Ondo and Benue to investigate the reported outbreak of Lassa fever, an official said.

The Chief Consultant Epidemiologist at the ministry, Dr Akin Oyemakinde, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Thursday that the situation was under control.

Oyemakinde said on behalf of the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, that the teams would investigate and put in place preventive measures to avoid the spread of the disease.

" Officers of the ministry are in Ondo and Benue investigating the outbreak.

"They went there with drugs from the ministry, with personal protection equipment, they will investigate the cases. They will do contact tracing and mount environmental control.

"Then they will meet with the state officials to come up with information education materials that can be distributed to people in their languages," he said.

The minister said the aim of distributing the information materials in vernacular was to facilitate awareness on prevention.

Chukwu advised the people to be cautious of how they handled food processing and storage.

He said Lassa fever was caused by contact with rats and advised people to desist from eating bush rat.

He said Lassa fever had high rate fatality and stressed that the earlier the disease was addressed, the better.

He advised people who had fever to endeavour to go to the hospital for proper diagnosis because it could be Lassa fever since the disease had similar symptoms with malaria.

The minister said that when the disease became chronic, the patients bled and had renal failure.

"Our food processing and handling practices have to change, people put their food items outside the sun to dry but rats, which are the vectors, eat the food items, defecate and urinate on them," he said.

Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. It was first discovered in 1969 in the town of Lassa in Borno. (NAN)

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