A TOTAL of 2,845 citizens are currently under watch in Nigeria as Lassa
fever is again raiding the most populous black country in the world.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), an agency of the United Nations said
in Abuja, Nigerias capital city on Wednesday that the countrys Lassa
fever outbreak has reached record highs with 317 laboratory confirmed
cases. WHO is attributing this to figures released by the Nigeria Centre
for Disease Control (NCDC) this week.
Although endemic to the giant of Africa, Lassa fever has never reached
this case count in Nigeria before. The number of confirmed cases during
the past two months exceeds the total number of confirmed cases reported
The outbreak has affected 18 states since the first case was detected on
January 1, this year, resulting in 72 deaths caused by the acute viral
haemorrhagic fever. The total of 2,845 people who have come into contact
with patients have been identified and are being monitored.
WHO is supporting the NCDC-led response with a focus on strengthening
coordination (including through the Global Outbreak Alert and Response
Network), surveillance, contact tracing, laboratory testing, clinical
management of patients, and community engagement. State health authorities
are mobilizing doctors and nurses to work in Lassa fever treatment
The ability to rapidly detect cases of infection in the community and
refer them early for treatment improves patients chances of survival and
is critical to this response, said Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu, WHO
Representative to Nigeria.
Health facilities are particularly overstretched in the southern states of
Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi. WHO is working with health authorities, national
reference hospitals and the Alliance for International Medical Action
(ALIMA) to rapidly expand treatment centres and better equip them to
provide patient care while reducing the risks to staff. Among those
infected are 14 health workers, four of whom have died.
Given the large number of states affected, many people will seek
treatment in health facilities that are not appropriately prepared to care
for Lassa fever patients and the risk of infection to healthcare workers
is likely to increase, said Dr Alemu.
Health workers are being trained in infection, prevention and control
measures, such as the importance of wearing personal protective equipment
(PPE) and isolating patients during treatment. WHO has provided an initial
supply of PPE, other related materials and is assessing additional needs
with a view to addressing them.
WHO is also supporting national response efforts in neighbouring Benin,
where more than 20 suspected cases have been reported.
The UN agency is equally supporting coordination for Nigerias response to
Lassa fever with national and state health actors, and stakeholders and
with partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN),
including the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention,
the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Afenet, the Alliance
for international Medical Action, the Nigeria Red Cross Society, UNICEF,
the University of Maryland, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Irrua
Specialist Teaching Hospital, the Federal Medical Centre Owo, and the
Federal Teaching Hospital Abakiliki. ENDS