Lassa fever: What is the LASG doing to curtail an outbreak?

by Wareez Odunayo

Lassa Hemorrhagic Fever (LHF) is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. It is an acute fever that is peculiar in various West African countries including Nigeria.

Lassa virus is transmitted from animals; specifically it spreads to humans from a rodent known as a natal multimammate mouse. This is probably the most common mouse in equatorial Africa, ubiquitous in human households and eaten as a delicacy in some areas.

Lassa fever is also transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces. Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur.

Yesterday we wrote an indepth piece on how the disease is also spread. We took it a step further by providing effective ways the citizens can protect themselves from the virus.

Now the onus is on the Lagos state government to wake up to its responsibility. It’s reported that the virus has already affected three health workers in the state, with residents questioning Governor Akinwumi Ambode’s readiness to face the issue.

As at June 2017, a total number of 501 suspected cases including 104 deaths have been reported since the onset of the Lassa fever outbreaks in December 2016 in Nigeria.

During the outbreak, 17 Nigerian states including; Anambra, Bauchi, Borno, Cross-River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Kogi, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Plateau, Rivers, and Taraba have reported at least one confirmed case.

On August 9, 2017, Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode revealed that three health workers, out of the 100 that had contact with a pregnant woman who died of Lassa fever at the hospital have tested positive for the infection, maintaining that, the health workers had been admitted to the Isolation Ward at the teaching hospital alongside a female resident doctor who contracted the infection while conducting an autopsy on one of the index cases.

He also assured all Lagosians to remain calm as all contacts are being monitored and have not shown signs of infection.

The question is, if over 150 people have been quarantined in LUTH alone, how many are roaming the streets of Lagos already? What are the precautionary measures the Lagos State Government have taken so far in order to curtail the outbreak of the disease like it did during the Ebola crisis in 2015?

To prevent Lassa fever, the promotion of good community hygiene is very important to discourage rodents from entering homes. In health-care settings, staff should always apply standard infection prevention and control precautions when caring for patients, regardless of their presumed diagnosis.

However, a close follow up, active case searching, contact tracing, laboratory support and disease awareness in the community and for health care workers should remain ongoing.

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