Nigeria: New Outbreak of Haemorrhagic Fever Claims Lives in Edo

25 November 2018

There is a an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever presently claiming lives in Edo State, LEADERSHIP Sunday has learnt.

According to the United States National Library of Medicine, like the Ebola virus, the Lassa virus causes a viral haemorrhagic fever. All viral haemorrhagic fevers have common features including blood vessel damage and harm to many organs in the body.

This sickness, in the past few days, has killed many people in communities including Igeduma and Ekpoma and environs in Edo State.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), yesterday, confirmed knowledge of a suspected outbreak of yellow fever in the state.

In a statement, chief executive officer, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said following the report of an outbreak of fever of unknown origin in four local government areas in Edo State, the state public health team commenced investigation.

According to him, "On the 21st of November 2018, nine cases tested positive for yellow fever. We await confirmatory results from the WHO Regional Reference Laboratory.

"The Edo State Epidemiology Team is working with NCDC, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and World Health Organisation (WHO) to carry out a detailed investigation and response to the already confirmed cases.

"The NCDC has deployed a rapid response team to support the state with contact tracing, risk communications and management of cases. There are ongoing plans to begin a vaccination campaign in the state in response to the cluster of cases."

Ihekweazu explained that yellow fever virus is spread through bites by an infected mosquito, adding that It is a completely vaccine preventable disease and a single shot provides immunity for a lifetime.

He said the yellow fever vaccine is freely available in all primary health care centres in Nigeria.

"In addition to the vaccine, the public are advised to keep their environments clean and free of stagnant water to discourage the breeding of mosquitoes and use insecticide treated mosquito nets, screens on windows and doors to prevent mosquito bites," he cautioned.

Since September 2017, Nigeria has recorded suspected cases of yellow fever in all states in the country. As at the 11th of November, 140 cases have been laboratory confirmed in Nigeria.

According to Ihekweazu, a multi agency yellow fever Emergency Operations Centre has been established at NCDC to coordinate the response.

On the symptoms, the CEO said they include yellowness of the eyes, sudden fever, headache and body pain. "If you have these symptoms or notice someone in your community displaying them, please contact your nearest health centre.

"This week, our sister agency NPHCDA flag off a large yellow fever vaccination campaign, targeting 26 million children and adults (aged 9 months to 44 years) in six states: Niger, Plateau, Borno, Sokoto, Kebbi and the FCT.

"One dose of the yellow fever vaccine provides for life long protection against the disease. We urge all Nigerians to get vaccinated and encourage their families, and neighbours to do the same.

WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said immunising more than 26 million people is a massive undertaking but the achievement, the organisation said will represent a huge step towards protecting people from the potentially deadly viral haemorrhagic disease not only in Nigeria but in the African region.

"Nigeria is on the front line in the global battle against yellow fever," said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The first phase of this yellow fever preventive mass vaccination campaign (PMVC) took place in January and February 2018 in Kwara, Kogi and Zamfara States and parts of Borno State.

Approximately 8.7 million adults and children between the ages of 9 months and 45 years of ages were vaccinated. A total of 39.9 million people are expected to be vaccinated against yellow fever this year.

The campaign is taking place as Nigeria experiences a yellow fever outbreak. Since its start in September 2017, confirmed cases have been recorded in 27 local government areas across 14 states.

Nigeria is one of 50 partners pursuing the Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) strategy. Steered by WHO, Gavi and UNICEF, the strategy seeks to protect at-risk populations, prevent international spread and contain outbreaks rapidly.

As part of EYE, Nigeria has developed a 10-year strategic elimination plan to reduce the incidence of yellow fever epidemics and to vaccinate at least 80% of the target population in all states by 2026.

However, WHO said routine yellow fever immunisation coverage in Nigeria remains extremely low. "In 2016, the national routine immunisation coverage (NICS) for yellow fever for children between 12 and 23 months was 39 percent."

However, a medical practitioner in Lagos State, Dr Olamide Adejuwon, said since the virus can spread through handshakes and hugging, it is not advisable to do so until the sickness is eradicated in the affected areas.

Adejuwon said Nigerians over there should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. She said,"Viruses can enter your body this way and can make you sick.

"As we do not know who has this sickness, it is good to wash our hands with soap and water many times during the day, especially after coming in contact with others.

"It is not advisable at this time to eat food from the same bowl or drink from the same cup as other people. Exercise care if planning to attend funerals where people sometimes handle dead bodies. Those in especially affected areas may decide not to attend funerals where people died because of a sudden onset of a brief illness.

"Each public place should provide soap and running water mixed with small quantities of bleach for use by everyone to wash their hands."

As to what should one do if he feels sick, Dr Adejuwon said if anyone develop a fever, feel strong body weakness, muscle pain, eye redness, low blood pressure, noise blood, headache and sore throat followed by vomiting and running stomach, such person should go to the nearest hospital immediately.

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