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Lassa fever: Death toll hits 40

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The Federal Government  yesterday confirmed the death of 40 Nigerians in a Lassa fever outbreak in 10 states  of the country.

Eighty-six people  were infected in Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo ,according to Health Minister Isaac Adewole.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines  Lassa fever as an acute haemorrhagic illness which belongs to the arenarvirus family of viruses, which also includes the Ebola-like Marburg virus.

Adewole called the outbreak an embarrassment .

“It is not the outbreak that   is unusual; what is unusual is the large number of deaths recorded so far and these deaths came largely from three states; Kano, Bauchi and Niger,” Adewole told reporters  yesterday while giving an update on the situation in Abuja.

He said the situation in Niger is “worrisome because we had unusual deaths dating back to August and only came to light about three to four months after and that represents a breakdown in disease notification system and we are trying to strengthen this because deaths even when they are unusual should be reported and we should not have waited for 35 cases in Niger before sitting up and that is the worrisome part of it.

He spelt out measures to check the spread of the disease.

These include avoiding contact with rats and  food or objects contaminated with rats’ secretions or excretion.

Shedding light on disease,he said: “The onset of the disease is usually gradual, starting with fever, general weakness, and malaise followed by headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and bleeding from mouth, nose, vagina and gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure.

“The virus is shed in the urine and droppings of the rats and can be transmitted through direct contact, touching objects or eating food contaminated with these materials or through cuts or sores and the incubation period is 6 to 21 days.”

He asked  health facilities across  the country  to place emphasis on routine infection prevention and control measures and ensure that all patients are treated free.

Health workers seeing patients suspected to have the fever were advised  to contact the following numbers: 08093810105, 08163215251, 08031571667 and 0813505005.

The first case of the disease was recorded last November in Bauchi state. Cases were then reported in Kano and other places.

The Lagos State government  on Thursday alerted residents on the need to observe proper hygiene to curb the spread of the disease.

One of the Lassa fever deaths occurred in Plateau State.

Consequently, the authorities have placed a team of medical experts on  the red alert to prevent its spread.

The disease  has been noticed in Jos North, Mangu, Langtang South, Pankshin and Shendam Local Government Areas.

Health Commissioner  Kuden Kamshak who briefed the press in Jos yesterday said  the  state, with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO), “is working round the clock to contain the spread of the virus.”

Accordingly, Disease Survellance and Notification Officers (DSNO)  have been deployed  in each of the 17 local governments in the state to monitor and manage the health challenge.

The commissioner  urged residents not to panic but remain calm and vigilant, and to report promptly to the nearest health care facility.

The  Niger State government issued a similar don’t panic advice yesterday on the Lassa fever outbreak.

Health and Health Services  Commissioner  Mustapha Jibril in a statement in Minna  said that measures were  being  put in place to address the development as blood samples of those suspected to have been infected had been taken for laboratory test at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in Abuja and Lagos.

He said: “The Ministry of Health and Health Services has swung into action in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, World Health Organization (WHO) and the local government to bring the situation under control,” Jibril stated.

The Commissioner said that his ministry had strengthened monitoring and surveillance on the affected communities in Fuka ward of Muyan Local Government area of the state.

He then called on members of the public with to come up with information on any suspected disease or death to the nearest health facilities.

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