Nigeria: Check the Rising Scourge of Lassa Fever

Lassa fever is still sending many Nigerians to an early grave.

Recently, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed that 72 per cent of all confirmed cases of Lassa fever in 2022 were reported in Ondo, Edo and Bauchi states.

The director-general of the NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja at the Federal Ministry of Health ministerial press briefing on COVID-19 and other developments in the health sector.

Adetifa said, “To date, there are 8,202 suspected cases and 1,067 confirmed cases across 27 states and 112 local government areas.

He said that, cumulatively, 189 deaths were reported in 2022, with a case fatality rate of 17.7 per cent, which is lower than that of the previous year, 2021 (20.0 per cent).

Lassa fever is a deadly virus that has plagued Nigeria for decades. This hemorrhagic fever, which is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids of infected rats or from human-to-human contact, has caused countless deaths and untold suffering to many Nigerians.

It is a disease that not only destroys lives, but also undermines the social and economic stability of the country.

In the considered opinion of this newspaper, the time has come for Nigeria to take bold and decisive actions to contain this scourge once One of the challenges when it comes to Lassa fever in Nigeria is the lack of awareness about the disease. Many people in Nigeria, especially in rural areas, are not aware of the symptoms or how the disease is spread. This lack of knowledge can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment, which can be fatal. It is essential that the Nigerian government invest in public awareness campaigns that educate people about Lassa fever and how to prevent its spread.

Another major challenge in the fight against Lassa fever in Nigeria is the lack of proper facilities and resources. Many hospitals in Nigeria are ill-equipped to handle Lassa fever cases and do not have the necessary supplies and equipment to properly diagnose and treat the disease. This can lead to a higher death rate among those infected and a lack of trust in the healthcare system. It is crucial that the Nigerian government invest in upgrading healthcare facilities and providing adequate resources to ensure that cases of Lassa fever are properly diagnosed and treated.

Another major obstacle in the fight against Lassa fever in Nigeria is the lack of coordinated efforts by the various levels of government and relevant stakeholders. It is important to have a multi-disciplinary approach with efforts to identify and isolate patients, trace contacts, and promote healthy lifestyle that can prevent the spread of the disease.

There is a need for government at all levels, non-government organisations, and the private sector to come together to coordinate efforts in order to combat Lassa fever more effectively. The Federal Ministry of Health should take the lead in coordinating a national response, while state governments should ensure that adequate resources are allocated to fight the disease and local government should ensure that there is adequate surveillance in their respective areas.

A major step in preventing the spread of Lassa fever is to control the rodent population in Nigeria, particularly the “multimammate rat”, which is the primary carrier of the virus. The federal government should work to implement effective measures to control the rodent population, such as through the use of rodenticides, setting traps and other methods.

In addition, Nigeria should also take proactive measures to detect and respond to outbreaks more quickly and efficiently. This could include strengthening disease surveillance systems, building emergency response teams, and training healthcare workers in proper infection control practices.

Another important aspect of Lassa fever control is research. There is an urgent need for more research on the disease in order to understand its epidemiology, improve diagnostic methods and develop effective vaccines and treatment options.

This newspaper calls on the federal and state governments to invest in research institutions, so that they can conduct the necessary research on Lassa fever and other diseases.

Furthermore, Lassa fever is a serious public health threat that demands immediate and sustained action from the government, healthcare workers, and the general public.

In our view, by increasing awareness and education, improving healthcare facilities and resources, and coordinating efforts across government and other stakeholders, Nigeria can make significant progress towards ending the scourge of Lassa fever.

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