The deadly Lassa fever disease has re-emerged in the country, causing the death of 19 people so far this year.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, while confirming that the total number of confirmed cases has risen to 83, said 17 new confirmed cases were reported in week six spanning February 8-14, 2021, PUNCH gathers.
The agency, in its latest Lassa fever situation report, said in week six, the number of new confirmed cases increased from 12 in week five to 17 cases, and these were reported from Edo, Ondo, and Taraba states.
“Cumulatively, from week one to week six 2021, 19 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate of 22.9 percent, which is higher than the death rate for the same period in 2020 (14.8 percent)
“In total for 2021, eight states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 27 local government areas. Of all confirmed cases, 51 percent were from Edo, Ondo (27 percent), and Taraba (12 percent) states,”
The eight states that have recorded confirmed cases of the viral haemorrhagic fever are Edo, Ondo, Taraba, Bauchi, Plateau, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, and Akwa-Ibom.
The NCDC also reported that, “The predominant age-group affected is 21-30 years, noting that the number of suspected cases has decreased, compared to that reported for the same period in 2020.
“No new healthcare worker was affected in the reporting week six,” NCDC said, noting, however, that one healthcare worker has been infected by the viral illness.
NCDC added that the national Lassa fever multi-partner, multi-sectoral technical working group continues to coordinate the response activities at all levels.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, an infectious diseases expert at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Iorhen Akase, expressed the need to put in place a system in the country that could be employed, irrespective of where the disease surfaces.
“Infectious diseases can surface at any time and that is why health systems need to think along this line and put in place a structured system that can be resilient in response to whatever happens.
“Now that COVID-19 has come with the prevalence circumstances of conflict, economic downturn, population expansion, poor investment infrastructure, dilapidated and poor maintenance culture and all the things that contribute to the reduced standard of living of the average Nigerian, we are going to be having more incidences of poverty and population-related infections.
“As long as poverty and the population are on the increase, we are going to be having more of these. So, it is important to put in place systems which, in case of any disease, we will know what to do,”
According to the World Health Organisation, Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by the Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses.
The organisation noted that humans usually become infected with Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa.
“Lassa fever is known to be endemic in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Nigeria, but probably exists in other West African countries as well.
“Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in healthcare settings in the absence of adequate infection prevention and control measures.
“Diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential. The overall case-fatality rate is one percent.
“Among patients who are hospitalised with severe clinical presentation of Lassa fever, case-fatality is estimated at around 15 percent. Early supportive care with rehydration and symptomatic treatment improves survival.
“About 80 percent of people who become infected with Lassa virus have no symptoms. one in five infections result in severe disease, where the virus affects several organs such as the liver, spleen, and kidneys,”