The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed the spread of Lassa fever in 10 states across the country with 107 suspected cases and 16 deaths recorded so far in 2018.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, in a statement yesterday said following the increasing number of Lassa fever cases reported, the Centre has activated its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate the response to the outbreak on behalf of the Ministry of Health.
Ihekweazu said the EOC has deployed Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to the most affected states-Ebonyi, Ondo and Edo.
According to him, the RRTs are supporting the states in response coordination, contact tracing, case management, risk communication and strengthening infection prevention and control practices.
He said the emergency supplies have also been sent to treatment centres in all affected states.
Ihekweazu said: "Since the beginning of 2018, a total number of 107 suspected Lassa fever cases have been recorded in 10 states-Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Kogi, Imo and Lagos.
"As at January 1, 2018, the total number of confirmed cases is 61, with 16 deaths recorded. Ten health care workers have been infected in four states (Ebonyi - 7, Nasarawa -1, Kogi -1 and Benue -1) with three deaths in Ebonyi State."
Speaking further, the NCDC boss said the Centre is collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, African Field Epidemiology Network, United States Centres for Disease Control, University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) and other agencies in supporting the response in the affected states.
He noted that Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness, transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated by infected rodents.
Ihekweazu explained that person-to-person transmission can also occur, particularly in hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control measures.
According to the NCDC boss, health care workers in health facilities are particularly at risk of contracting the disease, especially where infection prevention and control procedures are not strictly adhered to. He however, stated that Lassa fever can be prevented through practicing good personal hygiene and proper environmental sanitation.
Preventive measures, according to him, "include storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from the home, maintaining clean households and other measures to discourage rodents from entering homes.
"Hand washing should be practiced frequently. Health care workers are again reminded that Lassa fever presents initially like any other disease causing a febrile illness such as malaria, and are advised to practice standard precautions at all times, maintaining a high index of suspicion. Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) must be applied to all suspected cases of malaria. When the RDT is negative, other causes of febrile illness including Lassa fever should be considered.
"Accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment increase the chances of survival. Family members who are providing care for patients with Lassa fever should take extra caution."
In addition, Ihekweazu encouraged the states to ensure safe and dignified burial practices for patients who die from Lassa fever.
To this end, he said the National Guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control as well as Lassa fever case management has been developed, disseminated to states and are available on the NCDC website for download
He said NCDC remains committed to supporting all states' public health teams to prevent and respond to public health threats.