Three medical personnel at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki in Ebonyi State have been killed by Lassa fever. Confirming the incident, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezuruike, said two of the dead patients were medical doctors while the third person was a nurse. He revealed that the index patient who was treated by one of the doctors and nurse survived and had been discharged. Umezuruike said the cause of the death of one of the doctors has not been confirmed to be Lassa fever as he had mobidity of diabetes. The commissioner further said the victims presented late because they were self-medicating when the symptoms started showing.
He said: “Early last week there were suspected cases of Lassa, and yesterday my attention was drawn to it that a doctor died of suspected Lassa. We sent 12 samples and four came out positive. “One was self-medicating, he went to Mater Hospital in Afikpo. Two doctors he saw later advised him to go back to FETHA, he refused until it was advanced before he came to the hospital. “For the second doctor, Umezuruike said because he has mobidity of diabetes, his death has not yet been confirmed to be caused by Lassa fever.” Umezuruike debunked reports that the victims were taken to Irrua Specialist Hospital in Edo State for treatment instead of the Virology Centre built by the Ebonyi State Government in Abakaliki. “He was treated at FETHA. We built and donated the Virology Centre to FETHA. The second case treated a woman who was bleeding after undergoing local ovuloctomy and he was treated by the doctor to arrest the bleeding on December 29, 2017. They didn’t present her to the hospital on time,” he added He said the ministry had commenced contact tracing in order to monitor anyone who came in contact with the patients to ensure that no further deaths are recorded. Meanwhile, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed fresh outbreak of Lassa Fever in the state. The Chief Executive Officer of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, in a statement yesterday, said the centre was last Sunday notified of the four victimes of Lassa fever among health care workers in the South-east state. According to Ihekweazu, three of the four victims have subsequently passed away. He noted that NCDC was already acting on the directive of the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, for immediate provision of support to the state government, to investigate and respond to this cluster of cases. Following the report, he said the Ministry of Health through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) immediately commenced the public health response supporting the Ebonyi State Ministry of Health. He said: “A Rapid Response Team has been immediately deployed from NCDC to support the state in response coordination, contact tracing, case management and strengthening infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures. The NCDC has also provided urgently required medical supplies and drugs to support case management in the state. “Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic disease, caused by contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces. The Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of a person infected with Lassa fever.” Ihekweazu noted that “health care workers in health facilities are particularly at risk of contracting the disease, especially where infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures are not strictly adhered to. We therefore strongly advise that health care workers practice universal care precautions while handling patients at all times, not just when Lassa fever is suspected. “We commiserate with the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (FETHA) and Ebonyi State Government, and will support them to avert a future occurrence.