From Scholastica Hir, Makurdi

Following high cases of Lassa Fever disease in the state, stakeholders in Benue state have called for a law to ban the importation, sale and consumption of rats in the state.

They made the call on Thursday in Makurdi during a stakeholders’ engagement and sensitisation meeting on the control of Lassa Fever in the state, organized by the State Ministry of Health.

The call followed a presentation of the cases of the diseases in the state where over 1,030 suspected cases of Lassa Fever, 66 confirmed cases and 14 deaths were said to have been recorded in the state from December 2023 to June 2023.

Speaking at the event, the Ter Makurdi, HRH Chief Vincent Aule, expressed shock at the figure of the outbreak recorded in the state saying decisive steps must be taken to check the spread of the disease.

Chief Aule who spoke through the Kindred Head of Wurukum, Chief Simon Ugondo Tov, said for the campaign to check the rising cases of Lassa Fever in the state to be successful “it means we need a law by the House of Assembly to ban the importation and consumption of rats in Benue so that they can pass a law that will be binding on all so that violators can be arrested and prosecuted.”

He specifically said the “The law should prohibit importation and consumption of rats to Benue state.”

Speaking to newsmen, the One Health Coordinator, Benue State Ministry of Health, Dr. Jerry Agber explained that the Benue State Ministry of Health in collaboration with other stakeholders organization the event to engage and sensitize the people on the control of Lassa Fever in the state, “with particular focus on strategies to stop the importation of rats from other states to Benue State, which are the vector of Lassa Fever.”

He said “overtime we have been dealing with outbreaks of Lassa Fever in Benue state. For the past two years it has been recurrent. And this year’s outbreak was the worse of all. The cases of Lassa we had from January to this point are more than the total number we had in 2023.

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“When we x-rayed the issue we discovered that one of the routes that are fueling the spread of Lassa Fever in the state is the importation of rats from other Northern states into Benue state.

“So it became very important to call a stakeholders meeting like this where we have market women, traditional rulers, the Police, paramilitary organizations, the Quarantine officials, among others, to interact and chart a way forward and fill the missing link that saw us record those outbreaks,” Agber said.

He acknowledged the call for the law to back them in acting saying they will communicate it to the House of Assembly to enable the ministry have a legal backing to implement their strategies.

The Lassa Fever State Focal Person for Benue state, Mrs. Benita Kanshio who also expressed worry at the rising cases of Lassa Fever explained that “between December and now, we recorded 1,030 suspected cases of Lassa Fever. We had 66 confirmed cases within the outbreak and we recorded 14 deaths.

“The healthcare workers affected while managing the cases were 14 in number including two doctors, four nurses and seven Community Health Workers.”

Also in her presentation, the Station Officer, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services, Makurdi, Dr. Amarachi Onyeberechi, noted that the consumption of rats by the Benue people was partly responsible for the outbreak of Lassa Fever in the state.

Onyeberechi called for concerted efforts in passing law to prohibit the importation and consumption of rats in the state to help check the outbreak of the disease.

She also called for the training of surveillance officers to check the importation, the use of available technology to dictate those in the trade as well as the engagement, sensitisation of communities using local languages and collaboration with relevant stakeholders to end the consumption of rats in the state to reduce or eradicate totally the outbreak of Lassa Fever in Benue state.

She also called for implementation of biosecurity measures and observation of Standard Operating Procedures, hygiene and sanitation practices such as hand washing, improvement in waste management as well as use of environment friendly rodenticides to prevent rats infestation and reduce incidences.


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