From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
The preponderance of the dreaded Lassa Fever virus in Ebonyi State has led to the state government adopting new strategies to fight the outbreak and spread of the disease in the state.
As part of measures to fight the spread of the deadly virus, the Ebonyi State government has embarked on the construction of modern virology laboratory worth N250 million.
Governor David Umahi while inspecting the level of work at the Lassa Fever Virology centre started by his administration said the approved sum would ensure the centre was up and running within the three weeks timeline given to the committee in charge of the project.
The governor added that the State Executive Council has also approved four ambulances and four dialysis machines, both to be stationed in each of the designated hospitals in the three senatorial zones, and hospitals within the state capital to ensure adequate and prompt action against the spread of the virus.
“And we have also directed that emergency building or caravan should be constructed. It is not good to allow any suspected Lassa Fever patient to go to our general hospital or primary health care centre because it could further spread and that is why want to isolate any case identified through advocacy campaign.
“We have also approved another four sets of dialysis machines apart from the other equipment associated with Lassa Fever approved for the centre. One of the dialysis machines will be in the hospital here and one in each zone in the hospital of your choice. So, on the whole we are spending close to N250 million to attack Lassa Fever. About N64 million is going to build the mini-hospital and the lab. We have money for equipment, campaign advocacy and so on”.
Umahi lauded the efforts of the management and staff of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki under the leadership of the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Emeka Ogah, and the special committee set up by his administration headed by the Secretary to State Government (SSG), Prof Ben Odoh, for their sincerity and commitment in the fight against the virus.
Earlier, Dr Ogah commended the governor for coming to their aid, saying “we had reported and complained countless times to past administrations on the need for Lassa Fever lab centre in the state, especially in 2005 when so many of our staff and patients died of the disease to no avail”.
He said a lot of people both natives and non-natives have died of the disease in the state, which wouldn’t have been so, if they were given prompt diagnoses and treatment.
He said the essence of the virology lab in the state was for prompt analysis of suspected Lassa Fever case and proffer solution by way of treatment without endangering the lives of other patients and medical health workers.
“Currently, the nearest virology diagnostic centre is at the Specialist Hospital in Irua, Edo State, where the health workers that were infected with Lassa Fever in Ebonyi were treated. Driving to Irua is five hours non-stop and we had to transport patients in critical condition that far,” he said.
The chairman of the special committee on Lassa Fever, Prof Odoh thanked Governor Umahi for his leadership style and for giving them the encouragement and logistics to carry out the assignment.
Prof Odoh who had earlier said the state government had declared state of emergency on Lassa Fever lamented that despite the number of deaths recorded in the state in the recent times, the absence of diagnostic centre has been the cause of deaths.
He also disclosed that the state has recorded 49 other suspected cases, pointing out that the state government is building a diagnostic centre in the state to help in speedy response to cases.
“Before now samples were taken to Edo State for tests, but the governor has directed that we build a centre here at the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki and work has already started on the building. In fact, work is going on there day and night and it should be ready in three weeks time. Another sub-committee headed by the state Commissioner for Environment has been set up to clear all refuse in the state to ensure that the rats which carry the Lassa virus do not breed near residential areas,” he said.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Daniel Umezuruike in his reaction said that his ministry has initiated workable plans to end the scourge through maintaince of already existing health centres and fortifying the health centres, expressing optimism that with the virology lab in place, the issue of Lassa Fever would soon be curtailed.
He said part of the efforts being intensified by Governor Umahi to tackle the outbreak of both Lassa Fever and Cholera included the plans to revive primary health care delivery in the state to be able to give at least first aid to the victims of the outbreak before referring them to major hospitals in the state.