From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
No fewer than 242 deaths were recorded in Nigeria as a result of Lassa Fever in 2020, according to data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The deaths took place between the first and 51st weeks of the year even as there were 6, 668 suspected cases of the disease, out of which 1, 175 was laboratorily confirmed, the NCDC said.
The figures depicted a sharp rise from the 170 deaths, 4, 967 suspected cases and 817 laboratorily confirmed cases recorded same time (week 1 – 51) in 2019.
The figures contained in the NCDC’s recent epidemiology report indicated that three states, Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi accounted for the highest number of the deaths, suspected and confirmed cases at 23, 81 and 40 respectively.
In total, 27 states recorded at least one confirmed case of Lassa Fever across 130 local government areas (LGAs) in 2020. Of all confirmed cases, Ondo State had 36 per cent, Edo 32 per cent and Ebonyi seven per cent, even as the number of suspected cases significantly increased compared to reported cases for the same period in 2019.
Lassa Fever outbreak assumed a national health emergency phase on April 28 based on composite indicators national threshold.
Ahead of 2020/2021 Lassa Fever response activities, NCDC had requested states to prioritise the resuscitation and training of state Epidemic Preparedness and Response (EPR) Committee and Rapid Response Teams (RRT), intensify risk communication activities by airing radio jingles and other public enlightenment programmes, and allocation of a dedicated budget line for disease surveillance.
It asked states to designate isolation/treatment centres for clinical management of infectious disease cases, procure and pre-position response commodities and medicines, as well as establish/strengthen state funded robust sample transporting system health facilities
NCDC equally directed states to intensify surveillance activities, including active case search and contact tracing, provide comprehensive aftercare services for survivors, and activate Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) based on the protocol to declare an emergency
It urged state governments to fully support their respective epidemiology units and maximise the investments on the COVID-19 response to implement the activities. This, it said, was especially important to reduce the risk of spread.
It also urged members of the public to take preventive measures to prevent being infected by Lassa fever such as regular handwashing with soap and water, proper storage of food and ensuring clean environment to prevent breeding of rats, among others.