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Amid Coronavirus Threat: Lassa Fever Hits 27 States …RSG Debunks Infection Rumour

Even as the coronavirus assumes pandemic status, the death toll from Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria has risen to 144 in Nigeria with a Case Fatality Rate (CFR), of 16.8 per cent, according to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The NCDC said this is lower than the CFR for the same period in 2019 23.3 per cent, which highlights improved levels of detection and case management for Lassa fever across the country.

Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, while giving an update on the disease  in week 10, said the number of new confirmed cases decreased from 85 cases in week nine, 2020 to 81 cases.

He said that these were reported from 15 States, Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Taraba, Plateau, Benue, Kogi, Anambra, Delta, Enugu, Adamawa, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kebbi.

The NCDC DG said that in total for 2020, 27 states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 119 Local Government Areas.

According to him, of all confirmed cases, 74 per cent are from Edo 34 per cent, Ondo 33 per cent and Ebonyi seven per cent.

Ihekweazu noted the number of suspected cases had significantly increased compared to that reported for the same period in 2019 adding that NCDC had rapidly scaled up its preparedness and response for Lassa fever outbreak across the country.

The NCDC DG noted that in the last eight months, health workers from the major treatment centres have been trained, risk communications had increased and logistics had also improved to ensure the continuous supply of medical and laboratory commodities.

The NCDC stressed that Lassa fever was an acute viral haemorrhagic illness of two to 21 days duration that occurs.

According to him, the Lassa virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces.

The NCDC boss noted that person-to-person transmission through contact with body fluids such as semen, urine and blood could also occur, particularly in hospitals lacking adequate infection prevention and control measures.

Ihekweazu, however, stated that early supportive care with rehydration and symptomatic treatment improves survival.

He reiterated that NCDC would continue to support affected states through the deployment of inter-disciplinary Rapid Response Teams and provision of medical supplies including Rivabrin for treatment of Lassa fever patients.

The NCDC boss called on Nigerians to continue to keep their environments clean and store food in tight containers to avoid contact with rats and urged health workers to maintain a high index of suspicion for the disease.

“If a patient does not respond to treatment for malaria or other febrile illnesses after 48 hours, it is important to immediately test for Lassa fever,” he said

 Meanwhile the Rivers State Government has denied report of coronavirus in the State. Speaking on Rhythm 93.7FM in Port Harcourt, the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, said the story in the social media is the handwork of mischief makers, who seek to cause unnecessary panic in the State.

He said  before a declaration on the existence of the coronavirus can be made, certain protocols have to be observed, and steps taken, before the State Government, through the relevant agencies, will announce it.

“You cannot talk about COVID-19 as a medical practitioner, without evidence. The protocol to establish that is known by every medical practitioner. So, if a medical practitioner makes a categorical statement about such a matter, then we’ll have to question where the person got his certificate”, he said.

Emplaning the protocols to be observed before a case of Coronavirus can be declared, the State Commissioner for Health, Professor Princewil Chike, stated that it starts with taking a suspected case to any of the Teaching Hospitals in the State, from where all other protocols takes place.

“If you notice, or suspect (any person), the normal thing is that the person is sent to the Teaching Hospitals in Rivers State (University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, or Rivers State University Teaching Hospital). From that spot, the Rapid Response Team of the Rivers State Ministry of Health, the Emergency Operations Centre is at alert 24 hours, and they will come and take it up from there”, the Health Commissioner said.

Throwing more light on the case in question, Prof Chike said everything is currently being done in terms of undergoing all necessary protocols to ascertain what it is, hence it was premature to announce that the state has witnessed a case of Coronavirus, adding, “from that time the Ministry of Health was informed, we went in, and everything has been done. The patient has been attended to. The state we are in Rivers State is the ‘alert phase’.

This stage, he explained, is the stage at which thorough precautionary checks are put in place to identify any semblance of the virus, to enable prompt steps being taken to prevent any outbreak, should any case be noticed.

Explaining further, the Director, Public Health, Disease and Control, in the State Ministry of Health, Dr Golden Owondah, said the protocols taken towards identifying the Coronavirus has been made universal by the World Health Organisation (WHO), to the point that from the point of registering the suspected case with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), WHO monitors the protocols, and at the end of the day, decides what it is.

Pastor Nsirim said the State Government is doing everything possible to ensure that COVID-19 is totally prevented from the state, or stopped from spreading if it comes to the worst.

He said to this end, “the State executive council set up a 5-man Exco Committee to embark on aggressive enlightenment, because Government wants to make Rivers State safe for our people. Beginning from tomorrow, we’re going to involve all the media houses.

“Government is not just waiting for an outburst before embarking on this kind of sensitisation, for now, that information circulating in the social media is not correct”, he stated.

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