Since the beginning of 2018, Nigeria has recorded 16 deaths from 61 confirmed cases of Lassa fever across the country. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC in a press statement released on Wednesday said a total number of 107 suspected cases has been recorded in ten states across the country. The states are Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Kogi, Imo and Lagos. According to the health agency, as at January 21, ten out of the 61 confirmed cases were health care workers from four states Ebonyi- 7 , Nasarawa -1 , Kogi- 1 and Benue -1 out of which four are now deceased. Health workers are most times secondary victims who get infected while treating patients with the disease. Between 2005 and 2018, the infection claimed over 40 health workers in Ebonyi according to the state chapter of the Nigerian medical Association, NMA.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, on Tuesday warned all health professionals to investigate every case of fever before treatment. Mr. Adewole said every fever must be investigated properly and treated appropriately. He said no one should treat malaria without diagnosis. The Executive Director, NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu also advised health workers along same line urging them to practice standard precautions at all times. He said health workers should maintain a high index of suspicion while treating patients with aliments which presents malaria symptoms because Lassa fever appears initially like any other disease, causing a febrile illness such as malaria. Mr. Ihekweazu said Rapid Diagnostic Test, RDT must be applied to all suspected cases of malaria. “When the RDT is negative, other causes of febrile illness including Lassa fever should be considered. Accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment increase the chances of survival,” he said. Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness, transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated by infected rodents. Person-to-person transmission can also occur, particularly in hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control measures. Lassa fever can be prevented through practicing good personal hygiene and proper environmental sanitation. Effective measures include storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from the home, maintaining clean households, and other measures to discourage rodents from entering homes.