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Lassa fever kills two, infects 10 in five states

Lassa fever has claimed two more lives in Abia and Edo states as the country approaches the peak season for outbreaks of the deadly disease.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Lassa fever is known to be endemic in Nigeria with the peak season anticipated from December through June.

Latest figures from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), confirmed 10 new cases of the disease in five states: five in Ondo, two in Edo, one each in Ebonyi, Bauchi and Abia. In those new cases, one person each died in Edo and Abia states.

According to the NCDC, from January 1 to November 10, 2019, a total of 4,500 suspected cases were reported from 23 states. However, 764 were confirmed positive and 19 probable.

The Centre noted that since the onset of the 2019 outbreak, there had been 160 deaths with Case Fatality Ratio (CFR) in confirmed cases at 20.9 per cent.

According to the NCDC, 23 states – Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Gombe, Kaduna, Kwara, Benue, Rivers, Kogi, Enugu, Imo, Delta, Oyo, Kebbi, Cross River, Zamfara, Lagos and Abia – recorded at least one confirmed case.

A breakdown of the figures showed that 38 per cent of confirmed cases were in Edo, 31 in Ondo, seven each in Ebonyi and Bauchi, and five per cent each in Taraba and Plateau.

It noted the predominant age group affected as 21 to 40 years, equally distributed to both genders.

Fifteen patients are being managed at various treatment centres across the country: four at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH), Edo State; nine at Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owo, Ondo State; and one at Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, the report disclosed.

With confirmed cases so far among healthcare workers, there is evidence of nosocomial transmission of the disease amid reports of inadequate infection prevention and control (IPC) supplies in some health facilities and complacency on the part of health workers towards maintaining IPC measures.

WHO said that prevention of Lassa fever would rely on community engagement and promoting hygienic conditions to discourage rodents from entering homes. In healthcare settings, staff should consistently implement standard infection prevention and control measures when caring for patients to prevent nosocomial infections.

The United Nations body advised all countries in the Lassa fever belt to enhance early detection and treatment of cases to reduce fatality rate as well as strengthen cross-border collaboration.

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