Fear grips Imo residents over burial of Lassa Fever victims

Posted by Damian Duruiheoma, Owerri | 1 February 2020 | 683 times

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Tension is brewing in communities across Imo State following the information that victims of Lassa Fever have been brought and buried in the state without supervision from the state government.

The Nation learned that a woman who died from Lassa Fever scourge was brought home from one of the affected states and buried in one of the communities in Oru West council area of the state.

It was further gathered that another affected corpse was brought home from the neighbouring Rivers State and kept in a mortuary in another community in Ideato North council area of the state.

It was learned that since that development, government’s hospitals in Awo Omamma and Urualla as well as some private hospitals in the affected council areas witnessed unprecedented number of residents who came to check their health status.

Speaking with The Nation, the director of public health in the state ministry of health, Dr. Austin Okeji said though the state had not had confirmed cases of Lassa Fever outbreak, but enhancing surveillance across the state following the reports that some victims of Lassa were brought into the state from the affected states and buried without supervision.

Okeji said: “In Imo State, we have not had confirmed cases of that scourge up till this moment.

“But, we have had three suspected cases in Imo State and after their samples were collected, they turned out to be negative. The result of the last one came yesterday and showed negative for Lassa. The other two also came out earlier and showed negative.

“We’re actually enhancing surveillance. We have a report of someone that was brought into one of the communities in Oru from one of the affected states. The deceased was said to be a victim of Lassa. Before we knew what was going on, the information was that the village and family had buried the body without reference to us.

“The right thing to do is to get the state government to supervise such burials to forestall any spread of the scourge. But we(the ministry of health) were not involved. We only got to know that such a body has been brought home and buried.

“So, that puts us on our toes again to follow up on our surveillance with the people who had contact with the deceased before and during the burial. After 21 days, we will know the situation.

“We also got a report that a body is lying in the mortuary in one of the communities in Ideato North. The deceased was brought home from the neighbouring Rivers State and was confirmed to have died of Lassa Fever.

“We’re also following on that and we want to make sure that the burial will be supervised by the state ministry of health”.

He disclosed that the ministry had mounted very strong health communication and enlightenment campaign across the state using various media of communication to sensitise the populace.

Okeji said: “We urge people to be cautious in burning bushes close to the home to avoid forcing rats into the homes. Citizens should also take steps to rid their homes of rats and rodents and be more circumspect in the consumption of bush meats.”

He continued: “Every strange illness should be reported to relevant government facilities especially when such ailments come with high fever, body aches, pains, vomiting and bleeding from the body orifices.”

While noting that the disease is caused by Lassa virus carried by rats and transmitted through rat urine and faeces, Okeji said, “To this end, people are advised to cover their food, both fresh and cooked; eliminate all rats around their environment, maintain clean environment and avoid bush burning”. (The Nation)

Source: News Express

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