The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has activated the national multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre for Lassa fever to coordinate and strengthen ongoing response activities in the country.
This is just as it said the number of cases has risen to 244, with 37 deaths.
In response to a risk assessment that put Nigeria at very high risk of increased Lassa fever transmission, the Lassa fever Emergency Operations Centre was activated.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. The natural reservoir for the virus is the Mastomys natalensis rodent (commonly known as the multimammate rat or the African rat). Other rodents can also be carriers of the virus.
According to a press release signed by the NCDC’s Director General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, on Monday, the purpose of the EOC activation is to achieve a coordinated national response, particularly across affected states, to interrupt disease transmission, reduce the impact of the disease by reducing suffering and death, and other socioeconomic complications of the disease.
The statement read in part, “The LF-EOC was activated following a risk assessment carried out on January 20, 2023, by subject matter experts from the NCDC, relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, stakeholders, and major partners. The outcome of the risk assessment placed the country at a very high risk of increased Lassa fever transmission.
“The situation report of January 22, 2023, showed a total of 244 confirmed cases with 37 deaths and a case fatality rate of 15.1 % from 16 states and the FCT: Ondo (90), Edo (89), Bauchi (13), Taraba (10), Benue (9), Ebonyi (9), Nasarawa (7), Plateau (5), Kogi (4), Anambra (2), Delta (1), Oyo (1), Adamawa (1), Enugu (1), Imo (1), and the FCT (1).
“Infection and death among the healthcare workers accounted for five and one of the confirmed cases and deaths, respectively, highlighting the need for an increased index of suspicion among healthcare workers.”
A Professor of Medical Virology at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Sunday Omilabu, said, “There should be increased health awareness across all media platforms and the communities. As you may know, Lassa fever is always at its peak during the dry season, which lasts from October to early April.
“People need to be very careful handling wild rodents; if they must touch rodents, they have to use gloves or cover their hands with something that will not allow them to touch the blood or body fluids of that animal. We need to cover food and water and make sure garri is prepared hygienically and properly covered. We have to maintain a clean environment.”
Also, a Professor of Public Health at the University of Ilorin, Tanimola Akande, noted that the government needs to ensure that more hospitals can treat Lassa fever.
“For now, very few centres in Nigeria have the capacity to treat Lassa fever and even diagnose it properly; you have to take specimens and send them to those few centres.
“If many more centres can diagnose it, the better for us. In addition, research into developing a vaccine to prevent it has begun,” Akande said.