THE current outbreak of Lassa fever in Ondo state is a major source of worry as the reports from affected areas are scary.
THE Nigeria Medical Association NMA Ondo State branch has confirmed 106 cases with 15 death in different local governments of the state, including the life of a health officer.
INVESTIGATION revealed that 22 states including Ondo have recorded cases of Lassa fever across 90 local government areas. In Ondo State for example, areas affected include Ose ,Owo, Akure South, Akure North and Akoko South East.
LASSA fever, a viral haemorrhagic fever with symptoms similar to those of Ebola virus disease, is endemic in much of West Africa countries and usually sparks a seasonal outbreak from December to March. Humans become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to urine and faeces of infected Mastomys rats. Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of a person infected with Lassa fever. Lassa fever occurs in all age groups and both sexes. Persons at greatest risk are those living in rural areas where Mastomys are usually found, especially in communities with poor sanitation or crowded living conditions.
TRANSMISSION of Lassa virus to humans occurs most commonly through ingestion or inhalation.
Signs and symptoms of Lassa fever typically occur 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus. For the majority of Lassa fever virus infections (approximately 80%), symptoms are mild and are undiagnosed. Mild symptoms include slight fever, general malaise and weakness, and headache.
IN 20% of infected individuals, however, disease may progress to more serious symptoms including hemorrhaging (in gums, eyes, or nose, as examples), respiratory distress, repeated vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen, and shock. Neurological problems have also been described, including hearing loss, tremors, and encephalitis. Death may occur within two weeks after symptom onset due to multi-organ failure.
THE most common complication of Lassa fever is deafness. Various degrees of deafness occur in approximately one-third of infections, and in many cases hearing loss is permanent.
THE State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu has inaugurated emergency response committee on Lassa fever. The committee comprises the Commissioner for Health, Dr Wahab Adegbenro Chairman and Mrs Bola Akinyanmi, General Manager, Ondo State Waste Management Authority (OSWA) as the Secretary.
IT is saddled with the responsibility of sensiting people of the state on the need to keep environment clean and live hygienic life at all times.
THE committee should work assiduously to curtail further spread of the pandemic of taking proactive steps to avoid the scourge spreading to other parts of the state.
WE believe that the appropriate government agency ought to have prepared in anticipation of the disease having realized that Lassa fever is a yearly occurrence in the state. Our take is that this fire brigade approach to the control of the disease can not achieve the desired result.
STRATEGICALLY, since there is currently no vaccine that protects against Lassa fever, containing It relies on scientific interventions; education and societal and individual behavioral changes hinged on good hygiene.
HEALTH workers should maintain a high level of alert in the wake of this new outbreak and observe universal precautions in handling all suspected cases of this viral haemorrhagic fever.
A clean environment is essential to halting Lassa fever. People must maintain personal hygiene and proper sanitation in their environment by disposing their waste properly to keep off the wild vector rats spreading the virus. Observance and improvement of community hygiene through regular hand washing, proper refuse disposal and safe storage of food should be the order of the day.