Vanguard (Lagos)

21 January 2013

Nigeria: Lassa Fever - FG Releases 4,500 Doses of Drugs for Benue

The Federal Ministry of Health has released over 4,500 doses of both Ribavirin and Virazole tablets and intravenous drugs to the Benue State government to check further spread of the deadly Lassa fever epidemic which broke out in Makurdi, the Benue State capital last week.

This came as Lagos State government, yesterday,stressed the need for residents to maintain adequate personal and environmental hygiene at all times as part of the precautionary measures to prevent outbreak of Lassa fever in the state.

On the release of doses, Benue State Director of Public Health, Dr. Joseph Kumba, who disclosed this, weekend, said aside the drugs, the ministry also dispatched a team of four experts to the state to ensure that the disease was contained as soon as possible.

He disclosed that Federal Government Lassa Fever laboratory, at the Federal Medical Centre, Irua, in Edo State, actually confirmed the outbreak of Lassa fever in Makurdi, after testing the blood of some victims in Benue State.

According to Kumba, "Blood sample of one of the victims was taken to the Federal Government Lassa Fever laboratory at the Federal Medical Centre, Irua in Edo and it has been confirmed that they had Lassa fever.

"The ministry has also released over 2,500 and 2,000 Riborin and Virazole tablets and intravenous drugs for treatment and prevention of the disease among those who were exposed to the victims, especially at the trigger point".

He, however, cautioned the people of the state on the need to maintain environmental cleanliness, advising that the people should also take steps to eliminate rodents from homes and foodstuffs to guard against the disease.

Meantime, following reported cases of Lassa fever outbreak in some parts of the country, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, at the weekend, had advised residents to avoid contact with rats, cover their food and water properly, cook all their food thoroughly, as well as block all rat hideouts and holes through which rats can enter the house against contacting the disease.

He similarly stressed the importance of storing grains and other dried food items in containers with covers, properly disposing of refuse, maintaining adequate sanitation, as well as avoiding pets like cats in the house

Idris explained that Lassa fever is an acute viral infection caused by the Lassa virus that is associated with persistent high fever.

He added that as the disease progresses into a severe form, the patient begins to develop facial swelling, fluid in the chest, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina and the gut, low blood pressure, shock, disorientation, coma and kidney and liver failure.

According to him, other usual symptoms include general weakness, headache, sore throat, nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting.

He said: "Lassa fever is an acute viral infection caused by the Lassa virus and associated with persistent high fever. It is spread by exposure to and eating of foods contaminated with rat droppings or urine. It is also spread by direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces or other bodily secretions of persons with Lassa fever."

Idris, therefore, urged the public to report the case of anybody with the above symptoms or persistent high fever not responding to standard treatment for malaria and typhoid fever to the nearest health facility in the state just as he advised health workers to ensure that they take universal safety precautions when dealing with patients.

The commissioner, noted that though Lagos state is not in the Lassa fever belt region, a lot of people migrate to Lagos from different parts of the country, including the Lassa fever belt region but added that it is nevertheless necessary to alert members of the public on the need to practice and maintain adequate personal and environmental hygiene at all times as it is only by so doing that the outbreak of the disease in the state can be prevented.

He also advised them to contact the Directorate of Disease Control in the state Ministry of Health or the following telephone: numbers 08023228573,08023213333 or 08023044194for more information on the disease.

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