FG laments rising Lassa Fever cases in 5 years as WHO, govt move to deploy strategy to reduce threats

Posted by News Express | 19 July 2022 | 263 times

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•Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire


 *53 healthcare workers die in 2022

*NCDC confirms 829 cases, 160 deaths

The Federal Government on Monday lamented the rising cases of Lassa Fever over the past five years, saying it will deploy strategy used to address COVID-19 pandemic to ensure decline in Lassa Fever Case Fatality Rate until it ceases to become a public health threat in Nigeria.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire in his speech at the National Training Workshop on Case Management for Lassa Fever said, over the last five years, the country witnessed a sharp rise in the number of confirmed cases of  Lassa fever including healthcare worker infections. The minister stated that it reinforces the need to build capacities to adequately manage cases when they arise. 

The training was organised by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital with the support from World Health Organization. The  theme of the workshop is: "Reducing Mortality Lassa Fever Patients with sub-theme: Building capacity for Lassa Fever Case Management"

Ehanire who was represented by the Minister of State for Health, Nkama Ekumankama, noted that it is for this reason that the training is necessary. 

According to the Minister: "The Federal Ministry of Health is committed to ensuring the decline in Case Fatality Rate (CFR) from the 2021 figure of 20.5% to 19.8% in 2022 continues until Lassa fever ceases to become a public health threat in Nigeria. 

"The recent COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we cannot afford to undermine any effort put into addressing and reducing high-risk viral pathogens like Lassa fever, as not only can they mutate and pose a new threat, but globalization can quickly lead to the spread of the disease to non-endemic countries'. 

We have made advances not only in our capacity to diagnose Lassa Fever but now also in the sequencing of the virus genome to monitor the circulating Lassa viruses within the country. 

Our commitment is also evident in our emphasis on infection prevention and control measures among healthcare workers  (HCWs) to reduce rates of infection within healthcare facilities. 

Now we want to build capacity in case management because we know that doing so will go a long way in reducing mortality in these patients. This training is part of the government’s effort to further reduce mortality from Lassa fever.

The FMOH has not made this progress in addressing Lassa fever epidemics working alone. The World Health Organization has been integral in their support. Their support to the country has spanned from sensitization and training of healthcare workers to the provision of infection control commodities to treatment centres.  

They have also supported public awareness initiatives, surveillance and outbreak response at the state level through the Emergency operations centre and at the national level.  For this, we once again express gratitude.

"The Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control (ILFR&C), Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH), has been actively involved in the management of Lassa Fever patients for many years and has carved a niche for herself as a centre of excellence for the management of viral haemorrhagic fevers, despite several challenges". 

"There has been significant improvement in case management since ISTH became actively involved. Before their involvement, blood samples had to be sent to Europe and South Africa for confirmatory testing, with results being unavailable for weeks to months". 

"The institute’s activities have also seen expansion from clinical case management to research including large-scale epidemiological studies". 

"The Federal Ministry of Health is engaging with the World Health Organization, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) for the development of new therapeutics and a vaccine for Lassa fever, and ISTH will play a critical role in this regard".

The Chief Medical Director of Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital(ISTH), Prof. Sylvanus Okogbenin also maintained that the reason for the workshop is clearly spelt out in its theme and sub-theme:  “Reducing mortality in Lassa fever patients and building capacity for case management”.  

Okogbenin maintained that the Federal Ministry of Health is desirous to build a critical mass of well-trained clinicians and health care workers with the capacity for case management to reduce mortality from Lassa Fever Disease.

"This year alone (2022) in week 26, the NCDC has reported 829 confirmed cases with 160 (19.3%) deaths.  A particularly worrisome aspect is healthcare worker infection and death. 

"This year, 53 healthcare workers have been infected with several deaths. This workshop will also address the prevention of healthcare worker infection and death".

"This training will leverage on the knowledge, practice and experience of the Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control of the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, where for 15 consecutive years, despite the large number of cases managed in the centre, there has been no Lassa fever death amongst the health care workers". 

"Also, Lassa fever infection amongst staff of the institute is rare.  Highly trained and motivated clinicians and healthcare workers with a high index of suspicion, early diagnosis, early commencement of treatment and availability of intensive care facilities have significantly reduced mortality".

"This workshop will also pay particular attention to the issues of pregnant women with Lassa fever disease.  In 2022 alone, several healthcare workers across the country were infected during caesarean section following missed diagnosis in pregnant women". 

The WHO Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo also said this training is very important because Lassa Fever has been the problem in the last 15 years killing a lot of its patients 

Molumbo said the workshop will address the issue case management and the way people are treated, the medicine they are given and the timeliness of the treatment and also expend the best practices to the rest of Nigeria. 

"It is the best we bring all our healthcare workers up to speed for them to benefits best in terms of treatment of Lassa Fever cases, so this workshop is very important in that aspect"


Source: News Express

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