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Lassa fever: NCDC records 84 deaths in seven weeks

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 2,621 Lassa fever cases and 84 deaths with a case fatality rate of 18.6 per cent.

The NCDC said 476 cases were confirmed from the suspected cases from 23 states across 84 local government areas, as of February 18, 2024.

The Director-General of NCDC, Dr Jide Idris, disclosed this on Friday at a press briefing in Abuja.

Idris said, “The NCDC was notified yesterday (Thursday) by the Kaduna State Ministry of Health of the report of deaths from suspected viral hemorrhagic fever at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Kaduna.

“Following this notification, the NCDC has been working with both institutions to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the suspected cases as well as ramp up response activities.

“Four of the six blood samples from suspected cases sent to the Bayero University Teaching Hospital in Kano have been confirmed for Lassa fever. Furthermore, twenty-five close contacts of all these cases are now under follow up and placed on prophylactic medicine.

“The State Ministry of Health has also activated their Incident Management System with all the response pillars including intensified risk communication and community engagement for the prevention and control of Lassa fever in the affected communities.

“As at February 18, 2024 (end of week 7), 84 Local Government Areas in 23 states of the country have reported a total of 2,621 suspected cases, 476 confirmed, and 84 deaths with a case fatality rate of 18.6 per cent. Our condolences go to the families and friends of those (including the health workers) who lost their lives to this disease across the country.”

Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. The natural host organism for the virus is the Mastomys  natalenced  rodent (commonly known as the multimammate rat or the African rat). Other rodents can also be carriers of the virus.

Meanwhile, Kaduna Governor, Senator Uba Sani, has directed the state Ministry of Health to investigate the outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in the state.

The governor’s directive followed the reported outbreak of the disease at the 44 Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, where three health workers and a patient died of viral haemorrhagic fever on Wednesday.

Saturday PUNCH gathered that the management of the military hospital was forced to shut down the emergency ward of its facility following the suspected outbreak.

Lassa fever, an acute viral illness, has been known to show symptoms that include fever, general body weakness, and after a few days, headache, sore throat, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, among others.

The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mohammed Shehu, in a statement on Thursday, disclosed that a surveillance team was mobilised to assess the situation, and containment measures were initiated alongside the hospital management.

The statement read, “The attention of the Kaduna State government has been drawn to a suspected outbreak of viral haemorrhagic fever popularly known as ‘Lassa fever’ at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital located in the capital city of Kaduna.

“Governor Uba Sani on learning of this potentially dangerous outbreak directed the Kaduna State Ministry of Health on 20th February 2024, to immediately investigate and ascertain the situation at the health facility.

“Consequently, a surveillance team was promptly mobilised to assess the situation, and containment measures were initiated alongside the hospital management.

“Currently, four deaths have been recorded all within the hospital premises while three other patients with similar symptoms are currently being managed.”

The governor added that the state Ministry of Health and the management of 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital have commenced work “to contain the situation as all those who came in contact with those infected have been identified and are closely being monitored while receiving urgent medical treatment.”

Earlier, a circular signed by the Acting Corps Commander-Medical of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps, Brig-General S. O. Okoigi, made available to Saturday PUNCH, noted that samples have been taken from suspected contacts of the deceased and sent to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control for analysis.

“The Accident and Emergency Department of 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, has lost three members of staff and a patient suspected to have died from acute viral haemorrhagic fever.

“This followed the management of a patient with febrile illness thought to have been the index patient with the disease 10 days ago, having presented with a febrile illness. The patient also died from the suspected disease condition.

“The common symptoms in those affected included fever, and non-specific symptoms likened to malaria. However, the illness was complicated by abnormal liver function, acute kidney failure, encephalopathy, microangiopathy, and elevated D-Dimer among others,” part of the circular read.

“The A&E has been closed for a thorough disinfection process and samples have been taken from suspected contacts and the deceased and sent to the NCDC laboratory in Kano for analysis. Similarly, the Kaduna state epidemiologists have been invited to help in unravelling the aetiology of the febrile illness to curtail the spread of the disease.”

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