Nigeria has recorded a total of 44 deaths due to an outbreak of Lassa fever in more than10 states.
The country has activated its isolation centres in several hospitals across the country to help curb the spread of the disease, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, was quoted by local media.
The Federal Ministry of Health and the National Emergency Management Agency in Nigeria have subsequently issued a lasser fever alert.
Also, the federal government has announced its intention to appoint a National Lassa Fever Action Committee to discuss how to halt the latest outbreak of Lassa fever.
Health authorities in Nigeria have said the outbreak is under control and urged citizens to remain calm while some states have been advised to discourage the consumption of socked gari for now to prevent the further spread of Lassa fever.
Nigeria recorded its first case of Lassa fever in the latest outbreak in August 2015. However, the outbreak was officially declared in January 2016, when a student from the Ahmadu Bello University in the northern state of Kaduna was diagnosed with lassa as his symptoms, including high fever and sore throat were consistent with the virus on January 9, 2016.
First identified in 1969, Lassa fever is a zoonotic virus, transmitted when a human comes into contact with an infected rat’s faeces, urine or the bodily fluids of an infected human.
The mastomys rat carries the virus. These rats breed frequently and bear many offspring, increasing the potential for spread of the virus from rats to humans. Further, these rats are often found in human homes. Transmission through contaminated food is common, as the rats can leave excretions in food stores.
The virus is widespread in West Africa, particularly in Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Lassa fever can be deadly if not cured during its early stage. Typical symptoms of this disease include high fever, general weakness, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Later symptoms include bleeding, rashes and swelling of the eyes and genitals.
The incubation period lasts from six till 21 days, according to the World Health organisation (WHO).
Contamination can be prevented by, among other things, storing food in containers not accessible to rodents, disposing of garbage far from home and avoiding contact with bodily fluids of sick people.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri