by S’ola Filani
A total of eight doctors, four nurses and five health workers have been infected with Lassa fever, contracted after participating in a surgical operation on a pregnant woman at the Federal Teaching Hospital in Abakaliki (FETHA), Ebonyi state.
The state Chairman of Nigerian Medical Association, (NMA), Dr. Chidi Esike told journalists on Friday that the affected medical personnel have since been moved to the Specialist Hospital, Irrua in Edo State for diagnosis and immediate medical attention.
He revealed that the pregnant woman and her baby, who later died few days after they were discharged from the hospital, were suspected to have died from the Lassa fever infection.
According to him, the refusal of the Federal Government to provide a virology centre in the South-East geopolitical zone of the country in the face of overwhelming evidence of the need for such provision had threatened the gains in the health sector.
“The sad aspect of this whole saga is that since all these times that this woman and her child were managed with several doctors, nurses and all kinds of health workers exposed to the risk of the deadly Lassa fever virus, we are still suspecting that we have cases of Lassa fever in our land.
“It is not sheer insensitivity to the plight of not just the medical doctors but also other health workers in Ebonyi state of Nigeria that today 15th May, 2014 seventeen health workers in the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki are suspected to be affected by Lassa fever; out of this number, we have eight doctors, 4 nurses, 7 others have been rushed to Edo state for treatment.
“As we alert our people and health workers about the presence and dangers of Lassa fever, they should take all necessary steps including covering their food properly to avoid contact with rats, preventing rats from entering their houses, avoiding the eating of rat meat in
order to prevent Lassa fever.
“In 2005, we lost 5 nurses who died of Lassa fever contracted in the cause of their duty. In 2008, we had 6 cases and 2 doctors died in the cause of treating them. In 2011 we had 7 cases and 2 deaths. In 2012, they were 20 cases with 6 deaths.
“In 2013, they were 21 cases with 8 deaths. In 2014, we have had so far 18 cases and 2 deaths” Esike stated.”
Lassa Fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus and first described in 1969 in the town of Lassa, in Borno State..