The Federal Government has assured that it would completely eradicate the endemic Lassa Fever in the country this year.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adeboye, gave the assurance on Wednesday while speaking to State House correspondents after witnessing the signing ceremony of the updated Abuja commitment on polio eradication at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The federal government, he said, had concluded arrangement to set up 10,000 primary health care centres across the 109 senatorial districts in the country to tackle the Lassa Fever, which has been confirmed in 64 Local government areas across 17 states in the country and affected 212 persons.
He said: “We inaugurated a Lassa fever eradication committee chaired by one of the foremost virologists in this country and we are committed to signing the obituary of the Lassa fever this year.
“What we want to do is put across some innovative funding mechanisms, ability to manage and put to use 10,000 primary health care centres across the country over the next two years. In the 100 days, we will flag off 110 of these centres. We will start with the one in Fika where we had this outbreak.
“We will do one per senatorial district of 109 to make 110 in 100 days. This year alone, we will do 5,000”, he said.
On the current outbreak of Lassa fever in the country, the Minister said that the country did not record a resurgence.
He, however, said that the disease was endemic in Nigeria, stressing that this would be the first time the government is being transparent about the disease.
He said: “We are not having a resurgence. What we had over the years is a situation which Lassa is endemic in Nigeria. And as I said in numerous occasions, we have these outbreaks. In 2012, we had the highest. We have 1700 case and that declined. Last year, we had 441 cases.
“And what has happened is that for the first time in the history of the country, we are being transparent and open and we are telling the entire world what the situation is and that is what is different. We are also concerned. We want to find out why we are still having this Lassa fever inspite of human and material resources that we have in this country”, he added.
Prof. Adewole also denied that there were hidden cases in the past but decried what he called a culture of silence in handling the case.
“Not that they were hidden but they were never brought to public knowledge. There is also what we can consider to be culture of silence in some of our states. For example, we recognised Ebonyi State as one of the endemic states.
“And since the outbreak, Ebonyi has not recorded a single case or report a since case. We dispatched our surveillance team to Ebonyi and we discovered five cases”, he said.
The Minister also debunked insinuations that the disease was being given less attention when compared with Ebola virus.
“We cannot win the battle against Lassa fever the same way we won the one against Ebola. Ebola happened to be a single importation to Nigeria.
“Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria. In 2012, we had upsurge in 26 states. So, it is there but I can assure you that with what we put in place this year, we will sign it off”, he said.
On polio, the Minister expressed happiness that no new case has been recorded in the last one year.
“The good news about polio is that we have recorded a single case since last year and with what we have put in place, what we signed today, we will guarantee availability of vaccines. There will be no stock-out and we will assure that in less than 2 years, this country will be certified polio free”, he stated.