Containing Lassa Fever — THISDAY Editorial

Posted by News Express | 4 September 2021 | 401 times

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•Lassa Fever patients


The authorities could do more to stem the viral disease

Even though many Nigerians may not be paying attention, Lassa Fever, a deadly disease that took its name from one of our communities, has within the last two months claimed the lives of dozens of our citizens. The death toll as at last week, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), was 73, all within the past two months. The total number of confirmed cases nationwide is now 354. Of this number, Edo State has 158, while Ondo State trails with 117. Of the fatalities, Ondo has the highest, with a total of 38 deaths, followed by Edo with 14. Others are Taraba, 12; Ebonyi, two; Bauchi, two; Kaduna, four; and Enugu, one.

It is noteworthy that Lassa fever has been a serious challenge for Nigeria’s health authorities since it was first diagnosed in Lassa (the village for which it was named) in Borno State in 1969. Even though there have been efforts in the past to contain the scourge, it is unfortunate that we have been witnessing frequent outbreaks in recent years.

Lassa fever is an acute febrile illness which is caused by a virus with an incubation period of between six to 21 days. The onset of the disease is usually gradual, starting with fever, general weakness, before being followed by headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, cough, and bleeding from mouth, nose, etc. However, because the symptoms of Lassa fever are so varied, clinical diagnosis is often difficult, especially early in the course of the disease. For that reason, steps should be taken by the government, at all levels, to emphasise routine infection prevention and control measures. Healthcare workers should also be advised to be careful to avoid contact with blood and bodily fluids in the process of caring for sick persons.

Experts have advised that people should ensure their food (cooked or uncooked) is properly covered in addition to regular handwashing. The bush around the home should also be cleared regularly while windows and doors of the house should be closed especially when it is nighttime. The public should also be adequately enlightened on the dangers posed by rats in their homes. This should be the responsibility of both the Federal Ministry of Environment, and that of Information which can deploy the National Orientation Agency (NOA) for a public awareness campaign on the issue.

Against the background of repeated commitments by various stakeholders to prevent a recurrence of this disease, what the current outbreak has shown clearly is that if indeed there have been any preventive strategies, they were not implemented. We therefore believe that the authorities need to do more if we are ever to rid the nation of the disease that claims the lives of dozens of our citizens on an annual basis.

With effective coordination, the disease can be contained before it becomes another national epidemic at a time we are battling the third wave of Covid-19, and cholera infections. But the real challenge is to work towards its total eradication from Nigeria as it has been done in many other countries. We hope the authorities will take both preventive and long-term measures this time around so that we do not continue to lose our citizens to the virus that has become another emblem of shame.

Source: News Express

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