After recording a large outbreak of Lassa fever in 2018 with over 23 states affected, and what seems to be an upsurge in the cases reported since the start of 2019, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has urged Nigerians to stay calm as measures have been set in place to address the outbreak.
Backstory: Making the announcement through a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, Chief Executive Officer, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, explained that preparations have begun in the event of an emergency with the centre already providing support to states affected, most especially the deployment of Rapid Response Teams (RRT).
He explained that the RRTs deployed would collaborate with states in the coordination of response, contact tracing, case management, risk communication, and strengthening infection prevention and control.
The Centre had previously announced the outbreak, noting that over 60 cases have been reported across 8 states as at January 13. Ihekweazu stated that chances of more cases are high as recent epidemiological data revealed that the fever occurs mainly during the dry season running from January to April.
Instead of panicking, here’s what to do: Moving forward, Ihekweazu advised members of the public to shift their focus to the preventative measures they can adopt as opposed to going into panic mode, with major emphasis on maintaining good personal hygiene and proper environmental sanitation.
He advised the following:
- Take effective measures by 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.
- Hand washing should be practiced frequently.
- The public is also advised to avoid bush burning.
Message to Healthcare Providers: Addressing the healthcare workers who have direct contact with those affected or suspected to be affected by the fever, Ihekweazu stated, “Health care workers are again reminded that Lassa fever presents initially like any other disease causing febrile illness such as malaria.
“Healthcare providers are advised to practice standard precautions at all times, and to maintain a high index of suspicion.”
Bottom line: 2018 marks the 50th year since Lassa fever was detected in Nigeria and it’s disheartening that the disease is still endemic and not properly addressed in several parts of the country.