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Lassa fever: Ondo records 6 deaths in one month

By Ayodele Popoola

There are palpable fears over the resurgence of Lassa fever in Ondo state as no fewer than five people reported dead in Owo, Ose and Akure South Local Government areas of the state, The Hope has gathered.

Investigations revealed that the fatalities were recorded out of the total 46 confirmed cases recorded in the state, one out of which was pediatric.

It was gathered that at least two to three cases were reported every week in the current outbreak, and going by antecedent, more cases might be recorded, The Hope investigation further revealed.

Confirming the outbreak of the deadly infectious disease, a Senior Registrar, Community Health Department, Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Dr. (Mrs) Omowumi Afolabi, explained that the disease suddenly resurfaced as hospitals across the state have been recording new cases in recent time.

“We had 46 cases in January, and we currently have seven patients on the ward receiving treatments,” she said.

She said the illness is a viral hemorrhagic fever transmitted by rats, and is endemic in the state, where it kills several people each year.

Omowumi added that humans usually become infected with the Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with the urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats.

She noted that the prevalent period of the disease is during the dry season and part of the rainy season when farmers prepare the land for farming, and the prevalence of bush burning.

Omowumi highlighted poor hygiene and sanitation practices, population, and cultural practices as parts of the factors responsible for the high prevalence of Lassa fever in some areas.

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She emphasized that the disease has gone beyond multimammate rats as people often believed, saying nowadays there has been cross-breeding between the carrier rodents and some home rats and pets.

“Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by animal-borne or spread to humans from animals, which is spread to people through contact with household items, food, water, or air contaminated with the droppings or urine of infected multimammate rat.

“The farmers during this period will do a lot of bush burning and when they burn the bush, the rats will move from their natural habitat to a safer place and a lot of them tend to come towards homes in the surrounding areas.

“We have observed that some of our cultural activities like spreading cassava on the road to dry are harmful because rats can come around, eat out of the cassava, and drop faeces or urine on it.

“Besides, we have observed that our level of hygiene, if it is not well improved, can attract rats, and when there are uneaten foods that are not covered, they tend to come.

“Illness will present itself as malaria. But the patient is given oral anti-malaria and some antibiotics, and the symptoms persist, it can lead to Acute Kidney Injury (AKI).

Lassa fever usually present with complications such as AKI, bleeding from orifices etc”,she stressed.

According to her, people are not taking the illness seriously and will not come for early treatments. People will restrict themselves to counter-prescription as they will be trying different types of drugs which will worsen the case.

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On how to prevent the outbreak, Omowumi said its prevention relies on promoting good “community hygiene” to discourage rodents from entering homes. 

“People should take note of  some effective measures including storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from the home, maintaining clean households, and keeping cats in endemic areas.

“Family members are also urged to always be careful to avoid contact with blood and body fluids while caring for sick persons,” she said.

Omowumi advised the government to start public sensitization of the residents on the illness, especially those living in rural areas, about the causes, effects, and how to take precautionary measures.

Lassa fever: Ondo records 6 deaths in one month

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