Centre reports decline in Lassa fever cases

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Monday reported a decline in the number of Lassa fever cases reported weekly in the country.
This was made known in a statement signed by the Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) , Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, on Monday in Abuja.
Ihekweazu said that the decline followed the intensive response to the Lassa fever outbreak declared in Nigeria on Jan. 21.
According to him, since the beginning of the outbreak, NCDC has activated an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate response activities.
”EOC includes representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Environment, Médecins Sans Frontières.
”Also the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team, U. S Centre for Disease Control and other partners are part of the EOC.
“In addition, state level EOCs were activated in Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi and Plateau.
”In the last reporting week, which ended on Feb. 17,  25 new confirmed cases of Lassa fever were reported.
”So far, a total of 355 confirmed cases with 75 deaths have been recorded between Jan. 1 and Feb. 17, from 20 states across 57 Local Government Areas.
”Over the past three weeks, there has been a downward trend in new cases. The number of new cases being reported are lower, compared to the same period during the 2018 outbreak,” he said.
Ihekweazu said that inspite of the reduction in new cases, response activities are being intensified at the national and state level.
In addition, the NCDC had supported states to ensure adewuate availability of drugs, personal protective equipment, reagents and other supplies required for case management and diagnosis of Lassa fever.
According to him, there has been no single stock-out reported in any state. An outbreak review meeting was convened by the NCDC on Feb. 15.
He said that the goal was to review response activities, discuss lessons learned and improve outcomes of the outbreak.
”The review highlights significant improvement in the 2019 response as evidenced by the early decline in the number of cases when compared to the 2018 outbreak.
”These improvements have been attributed to various factors including the early deployment of One-Health national RRTs, strengthening of Lassa fever treatment centres, enforcement of environmental sanitation.
”And introduction of the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) ring strategy, risk communications activities, high level advocacy, operational research into response activities, and others,” he said.
Ihekweazu who added that surveillance data from previous outbreaks indicate that the typical peak transmission season for Lassa fever has not passed therefore, Nigerians must continue to practice preventive measures to avoid infection.
He said that prevention of Lassa fever relied on promoting good community hygiene to discourage rodents from entering homes.
He also added that other effective measures included storing grains and other foodstuff in rodent-proof containers, proper disposal of garbage far from the home, and maintaining clean households.
”All food should be well prepared, and family members should always be careful to avoid contact with blood and body fluids while caring for sick persons.
”Healthcare 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 revised lassa fever case management guidelines are available on the NCDC website, www.ncdc.gov.ng.
”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,” he said.
He added that person-to-person transmission is through contact with blood, urine, saliva, throat secretion or semen of an infected person.
He said that the disease could be treated, with early presentation to a healthcare facility, greatly increasing the chances of survival. Early signs of the disease included sudden fever, sore throat and general body weakness.(NAN)

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