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The outbreak of Lassa fever in Lagos State with the confirmation of five cases should put the nation’s health authorities on red alert. It is a warning to all Nigerians to be vigilant and proactive to check its spread. The five cases were reportedly placed on 21 days surveillance, while two patients, who were reportedly presented very late, died of the disease at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, in spite of spirited efforts of the hospital’s medical team to save them.
The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, said that about 100 different hospital workers exposed to the index case are currently being monitored. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Nigeria has reportedly been notified of the outbreak. He assured that there are adequate drugs and other necessary materials to contain the disease. The Lagos State Government also said that all the patients under its custody are doing very well.
Meanwhile, the Director, Lagos State Disease Control, Dr. Eniola Erinosho, has advised the public against panicking. He stressed that the state government is collaborating with LUTH, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and other relevant government health agencies to contain the disease.
Available information shows that Lassa fever is an acute febrile illness, with bleeding and death in severe cases, caused by the Lassa fever virus with an incubation period of six to 21 days. About 80 percent of human infections are without symptoms, while the remaining cases have severe multiple organ disease, where the virus affects several organs in the body, such as the liver, spleen and kidneys.
Lassa fever is a significant cause of severe illness and death. Medical experts advise that the promotion of good community hygiene and prevention of rodents from entering homes are effective measures to prevent the disease. Other measures include storing grains and other foodstuff in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from homes and maintenance of cleanliness.
They also advised standard precautions in healthcare settings, with all blood fluids considered potentially infectious. These precautions include hand hygiene, use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), proper waste disposal, disinfection of medical equipment, cleanliness of the environment and safe injection practices.
We commend the Lagos State Government, the teaching hospitals in the state and other health institutions for working in concert to check the spread of this Lassa fever outbreak. Their quick response to the disease is encouraging as it has gone a long way in checking its spread.
All new cases of the disease should be speedily handled and affected patients quarantined so that they do not infect others. The sources of the epidemic must be traced. States adjacent to Lagos should also be on red alert to forestall a spread of the disease to other parts of the country.
Since rodents are major vectors of the disease, care must be taken to prevent rats from entering homes and infecting food. Lagos State government should enlighten the public on the causes of the disease and how to prevent it. We strongly believe that effective and sustained public enlightenment campaigns will go a long way to contain the disease.
The public should be educated on the symptoms of the disease and where to access treatment. All fresh cases of the disease should be reported immediately to the nearest government health facility in the state.