Nigeria has recorded the lowest case of Lassa fever ever, as the week ended. According to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) outbreak control efforts have been intensified, and only five new confirmed cases of Lassa fever were reported in the week that ended on the 15th of April.
NCDC described it as the the lowest number of cases reported in a single week since January this year, adding that this also marks the eighth week of continuous decline in new confirmed cases showing that the efforts to control the outbreak are bearing fruit.
The Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole said he is happy, “with the reduction in the number of cases, thanks to the efforts that we have all devoted to this. However, now is not a time to rest on our oars. We will continue to intensify efforts to prevent, detect and respond to Lassa fever and ensure that Nigeria plays a leading role in the global efforts to tackle this disease”.
Since the onset of this year’s outbreak, the Ministry of Health through the NCDC, State Governments and partners led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) have coordinated response activities. This includes the deployment of Rapid Response Teams to the affected States, deployment of supplies to treatment centres, training of hospital staff on how to prevent the transmission of the virus in hospital settings, community education and other activities. Federal and State Governments have also improved the facilities to manage cases across the country especially at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo, Federal Medical Centre Owo, Ondo and the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi.
Despite the reduction in cases, the period of highest risk of Lassa fever has not passed. Therefore, NCDC, States and partners continue to strengthen surveillance activities across the country. This has led to the detection of new sporadic cases in some States, as seen recently in Abia and Adamawa States and a re-enforcement of control measures in those States.
In addition to these, critical meetings are being held with stakeholders to review and harmonise national protocols for Lassa fever diagnosis and treatment. A nationwide training by NCDC in collaboration with Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital on the management of patients with Lassa fever is scheduled to begin in May this year. This aims at improving the skills and competence of a critical mass of health workers in managing cases of Lassa fever in Nigeria.
NCDC reiterated that prevention of Lassa fever is everyone’s responsibility, “Prevention relies primarily on promoting good community hygiene to discourage rodents from entering homes. Other effective measures include storing grains and other foodstuff in rodent-proof containers, proper disposal of garbage far from the home, and maintaining clean households. All foods must be cooked thoroughly, and family members should always be careful to avoid contact with blood and body fluids while caring for sick persons. When symptoms similar to Malaria are noticed, visit the nearest health facility and insist on a rapid diagnostic test from the healthcare workers.”
Healthcare workers are urged to continue maintain a high index of suspicion for Lassa fever when handling patients, irrespective of their health status. Lassa fever should be considered in patients with fever, headache and malaise, in whom malaria has been ruled out with a rapid diagnostic test (RDT), especially when patients are not getting better. Health workers should adhere to standard precautions including wearing protective apparels when handling suspected Lassa fever patients.