The Federal Government has revealed that the current outbreak of Lassa fever in the country has resulted to 31 deaths from the 105 confirmed cases across the 15 affected states. In 2018 alone, Nigeria has recorded 77 cases of Lassa fever.
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who made this known at the Emergency National Council on Health (NCH) meeting with the theme, ‘State of Public Health in Nigeria’, yesterday in Abuja, said Edo and Ondo states were worst hit by the disease. According to the minister, the cases were in Bauchi, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Ebonyi, Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Ondo, Osun and Lagos states.
The minister said 10 healthcare workers were affected in four states; seven in Ebonyi with one health worker from Nasarawa, Kogi and Benue states. Adewole said of the 31 deaths from Lassa fever outbreak, four health workers died as a result of the disease; three deaths were recorded in Ebonyi and one in Kogi. He said: “Current outbreak active in 15 states; 105 laboratory confirmed cases, three probable cases with 31 deaths.
“Ten health workers affected in four states: Ebonyi, seven; Nassarawa, one; Kogi, one and Benue, one, with three deaths recorded in Ebonyi and one in Kogi. Two health care workers have been treated and discharged last week.” In another development, the Gombe State Government yesterday said that the state has lost one person to Lassa fever.
Dr. Joshua Abubukar, the Director, Public Heath, Gombe State Ministry of Health, confirmed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Gombe. Abubakar said an 18-year-old woman, who was tested positive of Lassa fever, died in Funakaye Local Government Area. He, however, said that the deceased was tested positive after her death.
According to him, government has shortlisted all those that have contact with her, including the health officials, for confirmation to avoid spread of the disease. The minister, therefore, said the meeting was summoned to discuss the state of public health challenges in Nigeria with focus on some of the challenges that bedevilled the nation in the past few weeks. Adewole added that Lassa fever has been a current outbreak in the country, stressing that Nigeria has battled with series of outbreaks in the past few months.
The minister said that Nigeria has dealt with Ebola in 2014; the country reacted strongly and the response was acknowledged by the international community.
The minister said that Nigeria had also dealt with the resurgence of polio, adding that the issuance of recertification will be tougher than it was before. “The international community will not come to Nigeria’s rescue or certify the country polio free until everyone is sure that Nigeria is polio free, and that is another health challenge,” Adewole said. The minister said that the country had dealt with measles, adding that government has already commenced nationwide campaign against measles. He said Lassa fever has been persistent in the country over the past 30 years.
The minister, therefore, appealed to the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and other research institutes to look into the changing dynamics of Lassa fever. “Lassa fever use to occur only during dry season but now we are contending with an all year transmission of Lassa fever. “NIMR director-general, other research institutes will need to find out whether we are dealing with new strain of Lassa fever virus in the country,” Adewole said.
He also urged state governments and other key stakeholders to work closely with Nigeria Centre of Disease Control to address outbreak of diseases. The minister urged all stakeholders in the health sector to adopt a contextual multi-sectoral approach in sharing data on disease outbreak in the country and also to have an operational centre for public health intervention for all disease outbreaks.
“States need to improve on their response and investment in prevention and control of diseases. We need to intensify our communication strategy at both national and subnational levels to improve the health seeking behaviour of the populace. “Infection prevention committees in all health institutions should be resuscitated and funded,” he added. He lamented that many states were yet to pay counterpart fund for the measles campaign
. Lamenting the attitude of state governments towards the counterpart funding for measles erad-ication he warned that states who fail to pay the counterpart funding in full would not be part of the measles vaccination exercise. According to him, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Abia, and Ebonyi states were yet to pay their counterpart funds while Rivers has paid 50 per cent of the fund. Adewole said in 2017, Nigeria had to contend with the outbreak of cholera from Kwara, Lagos, Kano and Borno states, adding that the disease is preventable with the availability of water and good hygiene.
The minister said the first confirmed case of yellow fever happened in 2017, 17 years after the last case in the country. “We have also commenced the nationwide immunisation against yellow fever that will take about seven years to complete due to non-availability of vaccines and large number of people to vaccinate.
“We have already taken delivery of 25 million doses of vaccines; with these, we should be able to go far, but not far enough. “We are already talking to stakeholders and international partners to shorten the campaign to five years,” he said. The World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative, Dr. Wondi Alemu, pledged commitment of the WHO in providing the needed support towards effective prevention of Lassa fever and other disease outbreak in the country. While advising all state governments to gear up towards effective operation of combating the disease by carrying out effective monitoring, Alemu urged health workers to fully protect themselves while on duty by putting in place adequate preventive measures.
“We are guided by the global standard of disease regulations and emergency operations, and we expect each state of the federation to improve on the means of managing the disease. This should be part and parcel of healthcare operational delivery system in the country,” Alemu said.
The Edo State Commissioner for Health who was represented by Dr. Daniel Umezuruike, disclosed that the state has recorded 56 cases of Lassa fever. He noted that the government was working tirelessly to properly monitor the health workers to ensure there was no further spread of the disease.