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Lassa fever: NCDC activates national emergency centre as death toll rises

Obaseki charges appointees to intensify Lassa fever campaign

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated a National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate response activities, in response to the increasing number of Lassa fever cases and deaths across states in the country, the centre has said.

The NCDC confirmed that 195 cases and 29 deaths had been reported in 11 states, as at the 24th of January and of the confirmed cases, 89 percent are from Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi States.

The Centre in a statement on Saturday signed by its Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the increase in the number of cases at this time of the year is not unusual due to ecological factors.

The centre, however, noted that there has been a decline in the case fatality rate of reported Lassa fever cases from 23.4 percent in 2019 to 14.8 percent this year.

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The National EOC which was activated on 24th January includes representatives from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Environment, World Health Organization, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control, and other partners.

The NCDC informed that Nigeria is contributing to research and other activities for the development of a Lassa fever vaccine, while the centre is set to commence Lassa fever epidemiological studies with the three main treatment centres in the country that will provide data to guide research and response activities.

The centre said over the last three weeks, it has deployed Rapid Response Teams to support five of the affected states and the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire led a high-level delegation to Kano State today following the deaths of two health workers infected with Lassa fever.

“NCDC has rapidly increased risk communications and community engagement activities to ensure that Nigerians are aware of the risks of Lassa fever and measures to protect themselves.

“In addition, five laboratories in Nigeria have the capacity to diagnose Lassa fever in Nigeria. These laboratories are critical to reducing turnaround time between identifying a suspected case and confirmation. This ensures prompt case management and other response activities, thereby reducing the number of deaths”, the statement read in part.

The NCDC, therefore, urged members of the public to practice good hygiene and take measures to protect themselves and their families. It also urged health care workers to maintain a high index of suspicion as Lassa fever can present with a fever just like malaria and other illnesses.

Lassa fever is largely transmitted through contact with items or surfaces contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats. Early symptoms are fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, sore throat etc. It is in very severe cases that the patient bleeds from body openings.