Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure

The recent outbreak of deadly Lassa fever in Ondo State may have led to economic boost for some petty traders. They now sell rat poison in the as they take advantage of the ugly incident.

The disease was first discovered at a location around Owo, headquarters of Owo Local Government from where it spread to Akoko, Akure, the state capital and the Southern Senatorial District. The development prompted government to open Lassa fever centres in major towns. Some special wards were designated for patients at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owo.

However, some traders have taken advantage of the ugly development by selling different times of rat poison. The outbreak of Lassa fever, caused by contact with rats and other rodents, has led to increase in those selling rat poison, as the demand for it also increases.

From Akure to Ondo, Owo to Ikare-Akoko, Ore to Igbokoda, Okitipupa to Ugho, the sale and consumption of bush meat have reduced apparently for fear of contacting the disease, which medical experts said is transmitted from animal to man. While hunters and farmers who sell bush meat complain of low market, those selling rat poison laugh home daily as a result of good sales.

In many of the motor parks, markets and other public places, those selling rat poison use megaphone to market their business. Some use wheelbarrows to hawk the product.

Many of the traders have also devised a new means of selling the product. They composed and recorded different songs and play the songs on tapes while they engage in hawking with the aid of wheelbarrow and motorbikes, even as some stay under big umbrella.

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One of the traders at Ilesa garage area in Akure, Mr Iyanda Omotayo, confirmed the boom in the sale of rat poison, stressing, however, that many new entrants have joined in the business. He said he made an income of N15,000 daily unlike what in the past when Lassa fewer was yet to be discovered in the state:

“The truth is that we now make more money through the sale of rat poison and this is good for our economy. I am sure it was because of the disease just discovered in the state. Everybody is trying to avoid rats in their homes, hence the war against rats.”

Another trader, Toyin Ogunleye, said she began to sell rat poison when her customers started demanding for it: “I am new in the business. I just started it and I don’t know much about it. I buy from people and sell it. I make good money from it and I hope to continue with the business.”

A resident of Akure, Abass, said: “We know that one major area through which the virus can be contacted is through rats. Everyone is doing everything possible to avoid rats in their homes. That is why you see people patronising those selling rat poison.”

The state epidemiologist, Dr Stephen Fagbemi, said patients of Lassa fever were admitted in Akure, where they were quarantined with those at the FMC, Owo. He said government embarked on aggressive awareness programme to prevent the spread of the disease. He added that this led to the increased sales of rat poison.

He disclosed that 50 people are currently undergoing treatment, while 46 persons were treated and discharged. He said 18 people died of the virus: “Government will continue to intensify efforts in its campaign at enlightening the people on the need to prevent the spread of the disease.”