As the world battles Corona Virus and it’s continuous to spread in Nigeria, we seem to have relented in the Lassa fever awareness which have claimed 188 lives, with 4,386 suspected cases and 973 confirmed cases, across twenty-seven of Nigeria’s thirty-six states between January 1 and March 15 as reported by the Nigerian Center for Disease Control.
While 27 states have recorded at least one confirmed case each, Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi alone have accounted for 73 per cent of the confirmed cases together.
The number of new confirmed cases decreased from 12 cases in Week 14, 2020 to 10 cases with the new case which were reported from Edo, Ondo, Kogi, Nasarawa and Plateau states respectively.
The case fatality from Week 1 to Week 15, 2020 reduced from 22.6 percent to 19.3 per cent, which is lower than the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) for the same period in 2019.
A brief info about Lassa fever
It is an acute viral disease of animal origins lasting one to four weeks with early symptoms similar to malaria and COVID-19.
The virus is animal-borne and spread to humans from animals. The disease can be transmitted from human to human through contact with bodily fluids, household items, food, water, or air contaminated with the droppings or urine of infected multimammate rats. People most often become infected by inhaling air contaminated with aerosols of rodent excretions, swallowing the virus in food or contaminated utensils, preparing and eating these rats (meat of wild or non-domesticated animals, called bush meat or wild meat), and contact with open wounds.
The virus believed to be endemic is disproportionately found among younger adults, between twenty and thirty years of age.
Symptoms of Lassa fever begin with a flu-like illness:
Fever, malaise, generalized weakness, sore throat (very similar to strep throat and without runny nose), severe headache, chest pain (especially behind the breastbone), back pain, ringing ears, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Hemorrhage is not common in less serious disease, but the loss of fluid from blood vessels into tissue may occur; this causes facial swelling, reddened whites of the eyes, and fluid around the lungs and heart. Dry cough and respiratory distress may also occur if illness involves fluid in the lungs, severe disease may cause encephalitis with confusion, tremors, seizures, and coma while Organ failure and shock are often end-stage events.
Some bleeding from mucous membranes occurs in severe illness, it infects all tissues, but infection of the liver is especially typical, Hepatitis may be mild or severe, and laboratory tests may not reflect the level of injury, it often cause deafness, and this complication may be noted in late-stage disease and during recovery periods.
Apparently, there is no vaccine available yet against Lassa fever, but the World Health Organization and several global public health entities are working towards developing an effective vaccine.
The presence of the high profiled disease COVID-19 will divert resources and attention away from the more commonplace killers. The NCDC said the National Rapid Response Teams had been deployed to support response activities in 10 states.
You should know that about 127 local government areas also have at least one confirmed case each which is why calls to declare a state of emergency for laser fever has been made to the Nigerian government.
The response from NCDC
- The National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has been activated to coordinate response activities across states. States with confirmed cases have activated state-level EOCs.
- National Rapid Response Teams have been deployed from NCDC to support response activities in ten States
- Surge staff(Doctors, Nurses, Laboratorians and Hygienist) deployed to ISTH and FMC Owo
- State Public Health Emergency Operations Centre activated in affected States
- The five molecular laboratories for Lassa fever testing in the NCDC network are working full capacity to ensure that all samples are tested and results provided within the shortest turnaround time
- NCDC is working to support every state in Nigeria to identify one treatment center, while supporting existing ones with care, treatment and IPC commodities
- Risk communications and community engagement activities have been scaled up across states using television, radio, print, social media and other strategies
- Implementation of Lassa fever Environmental response campaign in high burden states by Federal Ministry of Environment
We can all prevent the outbreak and spread by eliminating rodents’ habitats and by improving sanitation, safe food storage and preparation and clean water access.
The public must be taught about limiting consumption or safely preparing bush meat by careful use of gloves and thorough cooking.