From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated the national multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary Lassa fever Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in response to Lassa fever outbreak in some parts of the country.
The NCDC said it has deployed Rapid Response Teams (RRT) to states to strengthen states’ preparedness and response activities through their Public Health Emergency Operation Centres (PHEOCs).
Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated by rodents infected with Lassa fever virus.
The NCDC confirmed that person-to-person transmission can also occur, particularly in a hospital environment with inadequate infection control measures.
It added that, like several other countries in West Africa, the disease is endemic in Nigeria and is often recorded during the dry season, often between November and May.
The NCDC, in a statement on Wednesday, explained that the decision to activate the EOC was because of the rising number of confirmed Lassa fever cases across the country and a joint risk assessment with partners and other agencies.
It stated that a total of 115 confirmed cases with 26 deaths, indicating a case fatality ratio of 22.6 per cent, have been reported from across the country as at January 23.
It disclosed that the cases were reported from 30 Local Government Areas (LGAs) across 11 States, and also confirmed that weeks one and two of the year saw the highest number of confirmed cases recorded in the last four years for the same period.
The NCDC, however, said that, currently, seven laboratories conduct confirmatory tests for Lassa fever in Nigeria, and are coordinated by the NCDC National Reference Laboratory (NRL).
Meanwhile, the NCDC said it’s participating in the largest Lassa fever study in West Africa aimed at providing accurate assessment of the incidence of the disease. ‘This will accelerate the development of vaccines and other therapeutics for Lassa fever,’ it said.
It also added that risk communication activities are ongoing through radio, posters, flyers, and social media, while Federal Ministry of Environment is implementing a Lassa fever environmental response campaign in high burden states.
To reduce the risk of the spread of Lassa fever, the NCDC advised Nigerians to keep their environment clean at all times, block holes in houses to prevent rats from entry, cover dustbins and dispose of refuse properly.
It advised communities to set up dump sites very far from homes to reduce the chances of having rodents within homes, and they should store foodstuff like rice, garri, beans, corn/maize, in containers that are well covered with tight-fitting lids.
The NCDC strongly advised against drying foodstuffs outside on the floor, roadside where they would be exposed to contamination, they should also avoid bush burning which can lead to the displacement of rats from bushes to human dwellings.
It encouraged good personal hygiene practices, particularly frequent hand washing with soap under running water /or use of hand sanitisers when appropriate, and also eliminate rats in homes and communities by setting rat traps and other means.
Health care workers were also advised to practice standard precautions and to maintain a high index of suspicion at all times. They were also advised to ensure appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) any time there is a risk of body fluid exposure.
“This is critical for breaking the chain of transmission of the disease. Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) must be performed for all suspected cases of malaria,’ the NCDC advised.