The Nigeria Medical Association and the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives have expressed concern over the number of health workers that contacted Lassa fever while caring for patients across Nigeria.
The National Centre for Disease Control, in its last update on the disease stated that since the outbreak of the disease in January 2019, 17 health care workers had been infected in 10 states, with two deaths recorded in Enugu and Edo states.
While commenting on the statistics, the President of the NMA, Dr Adedayo Faduyile, exclusively told our correspondent in Abuja that government and other employers in the health sector needed to do more to protect care givers, stressing that there was evidence that health workers had suffered occupational hazards in many hospitals.
Faduyile also said that apart from the record of deaths released by NCDC, NMA lost members to the disease in 2018.
He said, “The NMA has lost some its members to Lassa fever. In 2018, two doctors died in Kogi State. Before then, there was a record of other members that we lost to Lassa fever. The first thing is to increase advocacy and awareness among health workers in the country to safeguard their lives.
“The government needs to put enough facilities in place at our hospitals to protect doctors, nurses and other categories of health workers. In the hospitals, there should be constant water supply for washing of hands. But in most of our hospitals, we have water in containers from where you draw with a bowl to wash your hands.
“That is not the best practice because an infected person can transfer it to the water, if he has contact with it or even the bowl. Anyone using it thereafter may be infected. The third issue to address is that our hospitals must put in place a barrier method of administering treatment. When you do not have a precautionary method of managing such highly infective disease, the health workers are at risk of contracting the disease. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for Lassa fever yet. There are efforts to develop one.”
Also, the Executive Secretary of the NANNM, Shettima Ahmed, said efforts made by the association to engage employers at all levels had not yielded results.
He said, “Government needs to do more to protect our members. To the best of our knowledge, what we have in our hospitals cannot be described as adequate. If we have adequate protective measures, we would not have lost the number of health workers that have died.”
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