Prevention of Lassa fever relies on promoting good community hygiene to discourage rodents from entering homes
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and partners led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) continue to intensify their response to the current Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria. Rapid response teams will remain in the most affected states, while specific response activities including the strengthening of infection prevention practice as well as social mobilisation activities are being intensified.
In the last reporting week, ending on the 25th March 2018, 18 new confirmed cases of Lassa fever were reported. So far, a total of 394 confirmed cases and 95 deaths have been recorded between January 1st and March 25th. Over the past five weeks, we have had a generally downward trend in new cases. However, surveillance data from previous outbreaks indicate that the typical peak transmission season for Lassa fever has not passed, so it is important to continue to strengthen surveillance and response activities.
NCDC, WHO and all other partners involved in the outbreak continue to intensify response operations especially the continued engagement with affected communities to prevent, recognise and report cases of Lassa fever.
NCDC and WHO calls on all Nigerians, especially those living in Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi States to continue focusing on prevention. Prevention of Lassa fever relies on promoting good community hygiene to discourage rodents from entering homes. Other effective measures include storing grains and other foodstuff in rodent-proof containers, proper disposal of garbage far from the home, and maintaining clean households. All foods must be cooked thoroughly, and family members should always be careful to avoid contact with blood and body fluids while caring for sick persons.
Lassa fever is a viral infection caused by the Lassa fever virus, primarily transmitted to humans through direct contact, eating food or drinking water contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats. Person-to-person transmission is through contact with blood, urine, saliva, throat secretion or semen of an infected person. The disease can be treated, with early presentation to a healthcare facility greatly increasing the chances of survival. Early signs of the disease include sudden fever, sore throat and general body weakness.
Health care workers are urged to maintain a high index of suspicion for Lassa fever when handling patients, irrespective of their health status. Lassa fever should be considered in patients with fever, headache and malaise, in whom malaria has been ruled out with a rapid diagnostic test (RDT), especially when patients are not getting better. Health workers should adhere to standard precautions including wearing protective apparels when handling suspected Lassa fever patients.
The CEO of NCDC has said that “NCDC and its partners will continue to support the States with the expertise, commodities and human resources that they need to respond appropriately”.
The Country Representative of WHO also stated that “WHO remains committed to support the excellent work being done by the country, we will stand by the country, not only until the end of this outbreak, but to ensure that we learn the lessons needed to prevent a large outbreak happening in the future”.
The WHO is also monitoring and supporting the neighbouring countries of Nigeria in improving their level of preparedness and readiness to respond more effectively to any potential outbreaks that might occur.
NCDC and WHO continues to strengthen efforts to bring this outbreak under control and to ensure that the country is better prepared for future outbreaks.