Abuja, Asaba, Benin, Akure, Abakaliki, Kano, Bauchi — The Lassa fever outbreak has spread to Delta, Enugu and seven other states since the beginning of the year, Daily Trust findings have shown.
The disease has so far killed 16 people in Ondo, 3 in Kano, while Edo and Delta recorded one death each.
Hundreds of people are also on watch list across the country particularly in Kano and Ondo states.
The death toll is equally increasing by the day while contact tracing has commenced in all the affected states. There are also efforts to quarantine people in the affected states.
Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic illness, caused by contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces.
New Lassa fever cases in Delta
One death has been confirmed in the two Lassa fever cases recorded in Delta State this month, Daily Trust reports.
The state government yesterday said the death of the single mother of one occurred at the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba. According to the Commissioner for Health, Dr Mordi Ononye, the woman died before adequate medication was administered to her a day after she was brought to the hospital.
Dr Ononye said the other patient, a corps member serving in the state, was also taken to the FMC, Asaba on Sunday, January 19 and referred to Irrua Specialist Hospital, Edo State the following day, Monday, January 20, where he is responding to treatment.
A death from Lassa fever was also reported on Tuesday, January 21 at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology Teaching Hospital, Parklane. It was gathered that processes to trace people and health workers who had direct contact with the index patient have also commenced.
Death toll rises to 3 in Kano, 292 on watch list
The Kano State government yesterday confirmed the death of another patient beside the two medical personnel reported earlier.
Three persons - two medical doctors and a pregnant woman - died from Lassa fever, just as 292 others have been placed on the watch list in the state.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa, said the disease was suspected in three persons - two medical doctors and a nurse. And two of the cases were confirmed to be Lassa fever after their blood samples was taken to Gaduwa Reference Laboratory in Abuja for test.
Dr. Tsanyawa confirmed that the index case of the killer fever was a 28-year-old pregnant woman from Gwale Local Government Area who became sick two weeks after the death of her mother.
He explained that the woman was referred from a private hospital to Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) on December 31, 2019, but died on January 1, 2020.
"Posing more risks to the state at large, more than 292 contacts have so far been line-listed and are currently being monitored by experts. These people were not on admission, rather, they were being monitored by our Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNO).
These persons would be on surveillance for three weeks before they could be confirmed free from the diseases," the commissioner said.
Suspected cases in Ondo rise to 89
About 89 people were suspected to have been infected with Lassa fever in Ondo State, the state epidemiologist Dr Steven Fagbemi, said.
Dr Fagbemi, in a telephone interview last night, confirmed to Daily Trust that the number rose from 84 to 89 on Wednesday, saying the number of death remained 16. He also said that no health worker was infected in the state and the victims were not quarantined.
What the state government and other stakeholders are doing is to ensure that those on admission are treated in isolated areas so that they are not mingled with other people, he said. Dr Fagbemi said two people were discharged yesterday, adding that 45 are currently on admission.
Efforts to get the state commissioner for Health, Dr Wahab Adegbenro, to comment proved abortive as he was said to be holding meetings with stakeholders on how to tackle the disease. Ondo State Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu had on Tuesday addressed the people of the state on the need to take precautions against the outbreak of the killer disease.
He said his administration over the past one year had taken several steps to curtail an outbreak. These steps, he said, included inaugurating a special multi-sectoral committee to address the outbreak, embarking on aggressive waste management campaign, provision of adequate human, financial and material resources to treat patients and follow-up care of contacts and relatives, establishing and equipping the Ondo State Infectious Diseases Hospital and creating awareness and public enlightenment in affected communities, among others.
Bauchi also on watch list of Lassa fever
There are also reports of outbreak of suspected cases of Lassa fever in Bauchi State. In a telephone interview, the Executive Secretary, Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Rilwan Muhammed, said three weeks ago there were reports of suspected cases in the state.
He asked for time to verify from the centre responsible for an update on the disease.
"I cannot give you confirmation of the outbreak for now because I travelled out of the country when the incident was reported. I don't know if the samples taken to laboratory were confirmed positive or negative. Please come to the office tomorrow to get reliable information," he said.
What the national disease centre said
A situation report released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) yesterday, said the number of new confirmed cases has increased from 18 cases as at the first week of the year to 64. These were reported from Ondo, Edo, Ebonyi, Taraba, Plateau, Bauchi and Ogun states.
"In total for 2020, eight states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 13 local government areas. 89% of all confirmed cases are from Edo (38%), Ondo (38%) and Ebonyi (11%) states," the centre said.
Lassa fever claimed one life in Ebonyi
The Lassa fever outbreak in Ebonyi State recorded one casualty in the last one month, Daily Trust learnt. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Daniel Umezurike, explained that the cause of the death was late presentation of the case to the appropriate hospital by the family.
He noted that the state has reopened the sealed hospital where the deceased and his surviving brother were initially admitted for treatment.
Ebonyi is among the worst hit states by Lassa fever with over 20 persons recorded dead from 2005 to date with persistent annual cases of outbreak.
How states are tackling the outbreak
Nigeria is one of the countries that have been experiencing consistent seasonal and sporadic outbreaks of Lassa fever in West Africa. The disease, which was first detected in Nigeria in 1969, comes with bleeding and death in severe cases. It has an incubation period of 6-21 days.
Lassa fever outbreak was most likely during the dry season, because bush burning drives rats from the bush into homes.
Delta State Commissioner for Health Dr Mordi Ononye said surveillance and contact tracing are on-going particularly on the people who came in contact with the two reported cases of the disease, adding that officers of the Federal Medical Centre Asaba, and Delta State Disease Notification and Surveillance Officers (DNSOs) are synergising and sharing reports.
He added that the state government has built and furnish a 10-bed isolation unit at the Federal Medical Centre and more collaboration is on with the federal government and its agencies to tackle the disease.
The Kano State government said it has reactivated its isolation centre at 'Yar Gaya, activated the rapid response team, conducted state emergency preparedness and response committee meeting among other effective strategy measures toward tackling the outbreak.
As part of efforts to curb the spread of Lassa fever in Edo, the state government has donated 200 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital.
Presenting the items to the Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control at the Specialist Teaching Hospital yesterday, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Patrick Okundia, said the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration is committed to combating the epidemic.
He said the donation was to help in arresting the spread of Lassa fever for the benefit of Edo people as well as protecting caregivers from being affected.
Ways to check Lassa fever
Medical experts say it is important for individuals, health workers, families and communities to improve on their personal hygiene and also ensure that their houses are free from rats, and properly cover all foods and drinks.
They urged the public to prevent the spread of Lassa fever by not spreading food items along the road, keeping food in tightly sealed containers, wearing protective clothing such as masks, gloves, gowns and goggles when caring for patients with Lassa fever, and avoiding contact with Lassa fever patients' secretions.
A consultant physician and coordinator for Lassa fever at the National Hospital Abuja, Dr Ogugua Osi-Ogbu, said not every fever was malaria, and advised that when people have fever that has been treated and it's not going away, they must visit the hospital because there could be other reasons; one of which is Lassa fever.
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