Following the confirmation of Lassa fever in 13 states of the federation, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has advised states yet to be affected in the ongoing epidemic of the virus not to rejoice yet.
Since the outbreak of Lassa fever last November, over 40 persons, including a medical doctor, have died as a result of the virus – five times more than the number of people that died in the 2014 outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country.
National President of NMA, Dr Kayode Obembe, warned in a statement on Monday that “all states have the potential to be at risk of being affected, if we neglect to observe basic personal and communal hygiene at individual, family and community levels”.
The NMA expressed concern that with Lassa fever most endemic during the present dry season as a result of bush burning, which drove rats, which are vectors of the virus, from bushes into homes, “Local and cultural habits of drying foods on the roads, streets and even around houses carelessly, also provide avenues for the spread of the virus”.
The virus is transmitted by multimammate rats (the common soft-furred African rat whose female has a double row of breasts), which normally live in bushes and visit nearby homes for food, which they contaminate.
Dr. Obembe noted that 80 per cent of Lassa fever cases pass unnoticed with symptoms similar in many common diseases as mild fevers, body aches, tiredness and loss of appetite.
He added that severe cases progress with sore throat, cough, vomiting, diarrhoea and unexplained bleeding from body openings, which at this stage, death may eventually occur.
“Hospital or other man-to-man transmission of the infection follow contamination with food or body fluid transfers, providing the reasons why home members and health workers wherever Lassa fever subjects exist or are taken for care must all practice the highest levels of personal and/or professional hygiene”, said Obembe.
An assessment team for Lassa fever is already visiting states, and a national action committee is to be inaugurated on Tuesday as health commissioners and heads of federal hospitals converge on Abuja for an emergency National Council of Health meeting summoned by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole.