Lassa Fever: Fresh Concerns As Nigeria Records 189 Deaths

Lassa Fever: Fresh Concerns As Nigeria Records 189 Deaths

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Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC) said no fewer than 189 deaths from Lassa fever was recorded, out of the 1,067 confirmed cases in Nigeria in 2022.

These cases according to NCDC were from 112 Local Government Areas in 27 states of the Federation.

The Lassa fever Situation Report for Epi Week 52 (which covered from 26th December 2022 to 1st January 2023), also shows that there were 8,202 suspected cases, including 63 healthcare workers who were among the victims.

The report also noted that the number of reported deaths with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 17.7 per cent was lower than the CFR for the same period in 2021 (20.0 per cent).

According to the NCDC, Nigeria recorded more suspected Lassa fever cases towards the end of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. In 2022 alone, 27 states recorded at least one confirmed case across 112 LGAs, with Ondo, Edo and Bauchi making up 72 per cent of the Lassa fever cases while 23 per cent were reported from 24 other states with fewer confirmed Lassa fever cases. The report further said that Ondo State reported 33 per cent of the 72 per cent of the confirmed cases, Edo 25 per cent, and Bauchi 14 per cent.

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The agency added that the predominant age group affected is 21-30 years, while the male-to-female ratio for confirmed cases is 1:0.8. It disclosed that in the last week of 2022, the number of new confirmed cases decreased from 17 in week 51, 2022, to 12 cases. The cases were reported from Edo, Ebonyi and Benue States. According to the report, no new healthcare worker was affected in the reporting week 52. The Agency said that the National Lassa fever multi-partner, multi-sectoral Technical Working Group (TWG ) has continued to coordinate the response activities at all levels.

Lassa fever is an animal-borne, acute viral disease spread by the common African rat (Mastomys). Predominantly in parts of West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.

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About 100,000 to 300,000 infections of Lassa fever occur annually, with about 5,000 deaths says United States Centre for Disease Control.

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Ribavirin, an antiviral drug, has been so helpful in the treatment of Lassa fever patients but is most effective when detected early followed by treatment.

According to NCDC, a Lassa fever case is suspected when any individual presents one or more of malaise, fever, headache, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, myalgia, chest pain, hearing loss and either a history of contact with excreta or urine of rodents or contact with a probable or confirmed Lassa fever case within 21 days of onset of symptoms or any person with inexplicable bleeding/hemorrhagia. NCDC has stated that a confirmed case is any suspected case with laboratory confirmation, while a probable case is any suspected case who died or absconded without collection of specimen for laboratory testing. The primary transmission of the Lassa virus from its host to humans can be prevented by avoiding contact with the vector.

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Health experts have therefore, advised that environments should be kept clean and out of any substance that can attract these rodents. Also, timely reporting of suspected case to the appropriate health centre whenever there is a manifestation of any of the aforementioned symptoms as early detection and treatment are always the best.

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Peter Okoye, PBA Journalism Mentee
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