Lassa Fever: Health official warns avoid bush-burning

Nigerians have been advised to avoid burning bushes in a bid to curb a Lassa fever outbreak that has so far killed some 40 people this year alone.

According to the Associated Press, chief epidemiologist Dr. Henry Akpan said on Monday that burning bushes would only drive rat species, carriers of the deadly viral disease, into people’s homes.

In recent months, the Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria spread through 12 states, including Borno, Gombe, Yobe, Plateau, Nassarawa, Ebonyi, Edo, Ondo, Rivers, Anambra, Lagos and Taraba States.

The health ministry confirmed 87 out of the 397 suspected Lassa fever cases in those states and says it is making treatment available.

According to the World Health Organisation, the Lassa viral haemorrhagic fever, an acute illness with one to four week long durations, occurs most frequently in West African countries.

People get infected with the disease when they come in contact with rat’s droppings and urine or come in contact with already infected persons.

WHO reports that the disease claims approximately 5,000 lives across West Africa each year. The Nigeria Federal Government, last week, inaugurated a 23-member Lassa Fever Rapid Response Committee in hopes of curbing the spread of the disease.

FG inaugurates Lassa Fever Rapid Response Committee

Nigeria’s Federal Government has set up a committee tasked with the duty of initiating measures to prevent and control the deadly Lassa Fever diseases that in recent times spread through 12 states, killing at least 40 people.

According to media reports, the FG in Abuja on Thursday inaugurated a 23-member Lassa Fever Rapid Response Committee with representatives from government agencies and development partners.

The committee, which was inaugurated by the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammad Pate, will be chaired by Professor Sunday Omilabu of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, while Dr. Henry Akpan of the Federal Ministry of Health will serve as the committee’s secretary.

There has been an outbreak of Lassa fever reported in Borno, Gombe, Yobe, Plateau, Nassarawa, Ebonyi, Edo, Ondo, Rivers, Anambra, Lagos and Taraba States in recent months.

According to the World Health Organisation, the Lassa viral haemorrhagic fever, an acute illness with a 1-4 week duration, occurs most frequently in West African countries.

Recent studies indicate that there are 300,000 to 500,000 reported cases of Lassa Fever in West Africa, and some 5,000 lives lost to it.

Concerned by the huge danger posed by the quick spread of the deadly disease in Nigeria, Pate said the Federal Government has taken decisive action.

He said, “It is our resolve to do everything possible not only to control Lassa fever epidemic but to put in place mechanism for it effective prevention. It is in the light of this National Lassa Fever Rapid Response that the committee is being inaugurated.”

The minister assured that the committee will provide technical expertise on how to nip the spread of the disease and also institute a standard of treatment protocol and guidelines for managing the disease.

The Lassa Fever Rapid Response Committee is also tasked with the development of standard operating procedures on infection control in hospitals and disbursing resources for prevention and control activities.

Lassa Fever: F.G. Promises to Curb Spread

Following another outbreak of Lassa fever in some states, the Federal Government says it will curb the spread of the deadly disease through regular enlightenment and prompt service delivery to those affected by the disease.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Ali Pate said that from November 2011 to date, a total of 397 cases of lassa fever have been recorded in eleven states, leaving forty persons dead.

He listed the affected states as Edo, Nasarawa, Plateau, Ebonyi and Taraba.

Others are Yobe, Ondo, Rivers, Gombe, Anambra, Delta, and Lagos.

Lassa fever causes extreme abdominal distension and bleeding, and has a case fatality rate of about 80%.

Although Lassa is classed as a haemorrhagic fever, only about 20 per cent of infected adults actually haemorrhage.

Most cases (roughly 80%) are either mild or exhibit no apparent symptoms. Also the agent is more lethal to non-Africans than Africans and seems to prefer the dry season to wet conditions.

No matter the season though, Lassa is a viscous viral predator; a minuscule but murderous pathogen of 110 to 130 nanometres in size (a nanometre is a billionth of a metre).

Like other viruses, it dwells furtively, in the realm between living and non-living matter, until contact with a cell occurs.