LAGOS State government yesterday confirmed that a yet to be identified type of disease has claimed 17 lives while no fewer than 34 others are currently under close monitoring in Otodo Gbame community in Eti-Osa area of the state.
Those killed in the last couple of days are children that are between eight months and six years old.
State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris told journalists yesterday that the cause and source of the "strange" disease were yet to be identified, though laboratory investigations were ongoing.
Idris said while there were several claims on possible cause, including measles, none of their preliminary findings have corroborated the claims, except for poor environment and slum condition of the community.
"The disease causing the outbreak is yet to be confirmed. However, the signs and symptoms are suggestive of Febrile Rash Illnesses (FRI). Blood samples (and throat swabs) from the patients and water samples from the community have been taken to the Virology Reference Laboratory at LUTH and Lagos State Drug Quality Control Laboratory (DQCL), LASUTH, Ikeja respectively. The source of the infection is still under investigation," Idris said.
He explained that since February 9 when the health ministry was first notified of the outbreak, 47 sick cases have been confirmed in a house-to-house investigation, with 34 cases line-listed so far for monitoring.
"Seventeen dead patients have been identified with nine males and eight females. All are within the age range of eight to 72 months."
The commissioner also informed that the first death occurred on January 6, 2016, "but the community would not alert the health authorities of the outbreak on time".
Otodo Gbame community is an expansive, sandy riverine, flood prone and camp-lie settlements with an estimated population of 100, 000 people.
The people are mainly Egun though there are other tribes in the minority. The community is a slum with waste deposited at different spots. There are many scattered shallow wells in the community.
"The water from the wells is used mostly for bathing, washing and cooking. Majority of the residents claimed it is not used for drinking but a few said they sometimes drink from the well. The community head, Chief Hunpe Dansu confirmed the outbreak of the Febrile Rash Illnesses," Idris noted.
On the management of line-listed cases, Idris said: "Seven cases were already followed up as at February 15, 2016. Six had recovered while one who was still ill was immediately taken to the Primary Health Centre (PHC) at Ikate for further medical attention."
He added that other efforts were on to conduct comprehensive supplemental immunisation for all childhood preventable diseases in the community.
He urged the Lagos residents to practice health promotion and disease prevention measures like basic environmental sanitation, including proper disposal of refuse, avoiding open defecation and so on.