Forty fatalities including two medical personnel due to a recent outbreak of Lassa fever illustrate a lack of adequate information on how to manage this dangerous disease.
The deaths occurred in twelve states where the disease has been detected in the last six weeks. According to the Minister of State for Health, Dr Mohammed Ali Pate, who made announcement in Abuja, the over 397 cases of Lassa fever so far reported came from Edo, Nasarawa, Plateau, Ebonyi, Taraba, Yobe, Ondo, Rivers, Gombe, Anambra, Delta and Lagos states. In response, over 750, 000 doses of Ribavirin injection as well as safety gloves and protective vests for health workers have been were distributed to affected states, he said.
Besides, nine specialist centres have been opened across Nigeria where tests for Lassa fever can be carried out, in addition to the National Institute for Lassa Fever Research and Control, in Irrua, Edo State.
Medical authorities reported that there had been a 60-percent rise in suspected cases of the disease, and 80-percent increase in confirmed cases. Key to effective treatment is early diagnosis, within six days of infection. The annual number of deaths, according to the Community Medical Director at the Irrua institute, Dr A. O. Asogun, could top 58,000 if the current rate of infection continues. Health workers are at greater risk of contracting the disease mainly from exposure to infected patients. Since 2008, seven medical doctors have reportedly died from the disease. Pregnant women are also at high risk of contracting Lassa fever.
Lassa fever is an acute viral fever that induces haemorrhage. First discovered in 1969 in the town of Lassa in Borno State, the virus is transmitted by contact with the faecal and urine matter dropped by rodents. The fever had become endemic in West African countries, including Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Lassa