The Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, has directed all Environmental Health professionals in the federal, state and local governments to immediately re-embark on massive awareness campaign and environmental health surveillance of premises to identify rodents' harbourages, destroy/eradicate rodents in homes, commercial and industrial premises.
He said the Ministry is putting in place Environmental Health and Sanitation Surveillance System to strengthen the cooperation between the state and federal governments on Environmental Health and Sanitation issues.
The system will also help in information/data gathering and sharing between the federal, state and local governments, he said.
The minister, who spoke on Monday on the current Lassa fever outbreak in the country, said the fever is endemic in Nigeria and often associated with poor sanitary hygiene practices with cases being recorded all year round.
"The Lassa fever virus is transmitted by rodents (rats) which can be found in our environments including homes, motor parks, offices and even places of worship. This contributes largely to the risk of spread that occurs in Nigeria and other countries with similar ecological factors," he said.
Dr Abubakar said before the recent outbreak, the Ministry had taken proactive measures to improve the overall sanitation and hygiene situation in the country by establishing Sanitation Desks in all the 36 states of the country.
"These sanitation desk officers are to coordinate sanitation and related activities within their states, liaise with their respective local government environment departments, and report back to the Federal Ministry of Environment," he said.
He noted that they are also expected to monitor and report Lassa fever cases and other environmental determinants of diseases to the Federal Ministry of Environment headquarters, saying, 'The Sanitation Desks are to be replicated in all 774 LGAs in the country.'
While noting that effective Pest and Vector Control services in residential and commercial premises are to be carried out by the health officers, he said there should also be development of sanitary means and facilities for drying of cereals, legumes and tubers to ward off invasion by rodents.
The minister advised the citizens to imbibe good sanitation and hygiene practices and take preventive and control measures that include: keeping the environment clean to avoid contact with rodents, keeping food away from rodents and disposing wastes regularly and far away from home.
Other preventive measures, according to the minister, include blocking rat hide outs, avoiding eating of rats as much as possible, washing hands regularly with soap and running water, as well as using protective equipment such as masks, gloves, gowns etc., in healthcare centres, especially when taking care of the sick.