A humanitarian medical organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Saturday called for proactive vigilance in Nigeria against Lassa fever, as 101 persons have died in the recent outbreak of the disease .
MSF also called Doctors without Borders disclosed that 101 persons were confirmed dead of the disease of the 146 total deaths recorded since the outbreak in the country.
MFS’s Field Communication Manager, Maro Verli, made the disclosure in a statement issued in Maiduguri.
The statement quoted Claire Lansard, MSF’s Emergency Coordinator, as saying that 1, 781 suspected cases of the disease were recorded at various facilities in the country between December 2017 and March 2018.
Lansard said: “the current outbreak is the largest in recent years, with 1,781 suspected cases; of which 408 were confirmed, and 146 deaths while 101 were confirmed to be Lassa fever.
“However, the number of cases reporting to health facilities has declined in the recent weeks according to figures from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control.
“Health workers have also been affected by the outbreak, with deaths occurring amongst nurses, healthcare assistants and doctors become infected by treating patients who were not aware they had the disease or by working without adequate protective equipment such as gowns, gloves and masks”.
Lansard stressed that vigilance was required despite reduction of the cases in the past two months.
He explained that the disease could first appear with very mild symptoms, but if people are worried that they might be infected, they should visit the nearest health centre.
“Lassa is a viral hemorrhagic fever that occurs every year in Nigeria between December and March.
“The disease is spread to humans through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected multimammate rat and could then spread between people in the same way.
“Though it starts with symptoms such as fever, nausea and headaches, in around one in five people it could lead to more serious symptoms such as organ failure.
“The numbers of cases have reduced in the past few weeks; we still need to be vigilant to protect patients and health workers against Lassa fever.
“MSF has long-term experience caring for people affected by viral hemorrhagic fever, and helping health services to protect staff as they care for these patients. We are pleased to be sharing this technical expertise with the Nigerian Health Services, and to be working together to tackle this outbreak,” Lansard said.
Verli disclosed further that the organisation had scaled up activities in collaboration with health institutions to respond to severe outbreak in areas where the disease manifested.
He said that MSF teams had been working in three of the most affected states; Bauchi, Ebonyi and Ondo, to control the disease.
The communication manager revealed that the organisation had erected an isolation facility in Bauchi with capacity to treat six persons, while the team was providing training to personnel of the Ministry of Health on how to treat patients.
He added that the organisation had also donated drugs to care for those suffering from the disease and worked with the most affected communities to create awareness on the symptoms of the disease.
“MSF is working in collaboration with the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, to support and strengthen the functioning of the Virology Centre dedicated to treat patients with Lassa fever.
“The team is also providing training and equipment to staff working in the Virology Centre and to those working at the entry points of the hospital where they could come into contact with patients who might come to the hospital for treatment without knowing that they have Lassa fever.
“These include emergency, gynaecology and obstetrics departments as well as emergency departments for adults and children. The training being provided will also help the hospital team to prepare for another outbreak next year,” Verli said.
Similarly, the organisation trained health workers in Ondo; where 28 deaths were recorded of the 287 suspected and 98 confirmed cases.
Verli said that apart from the training exercise, MSF donated Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) kits to eight health facilities and rehabilitated the only isolation ward in Akure, Ondo State.
The project, he said, included rehabilitation of the isolation ward, construction of a waste management area, triage, ambulance pathway and other minor works in the hospital.
MSF also trained health workers in Anambra state on how to treat patients and to set up an isolation facility, adding that the team had been deployed to Ebonyi sequel to effective control of the outbreak in Anambra.
According to him, MSF was also running an extensive child and reproductive health projects in Sokoto and Jigawa; provision of care to children affected by lead poisoning in Zamfara and Niger States as well as victims of sexual violence in Port Harcourt.