The World Health Organisation (WHO) has scaled up its response to Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria.
The epidemic has spread to 17 states and may have infected up to 450 people in less than five weeks.
WHO, in a statement, said it has deployed its workers from the national and state levels to support the country’s Lassa Fever Emergency Operations Centre and state surveillance.
It is co-ordinating health actors and has joined in the risk assessment teams travelling to hot spots to investigate the outbreak.
Between January 1 and February 4 , about 450 suspected cases of Lassa fever were reported, of which 132 are laboratory confirmed. Of these, 43 deaths were reported, 37 of which were laboratory confirmed.
The acute viral haemorrhagic fever is endemic in the country, but for the current outbreak the hot spots are Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi states.
“The high number of Lassa fever cases is a serious concern. We are observing an unusually high number of cases for this time of year,” Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu, WHO representative to Nigeria, said.
Among those infected are 11 health workers, four of whom have died. WHO is advising authorities on strengthening infection, prevention and control practices in healthcare settings. Healthcare workers caring for Lassa fever patients require extra infection and control measures, including the use of personal protective equipment to prevent contact with patients’ bodily fluids.
With the increase in Lassa fever cases, the WHO initially donated protective equipment to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and to the affected states and procured laboratory reagents to support the diagnosis of Lassa fever.
WHO has deployed experts to coordinate the response, strengthen surveillance, provide treatment guidelines, and engage with communities to raise awareness on prevention and treatment.
Lassa fever is endemic in several West African countries. Republic of Benin, Liberia and Sierra Leone have all reported cases in the past month.
By: Oyeyemi Gbenga-Mustapha
The Nation News
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