Lassa Fever: Figures Surge As NCDC Activates Multi-Sectoral Incident Management System

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Lassa Fever Rats.
Lassa Fever Rats.

Nigeria is currently battling a significant rise in Lassa fever cases, with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) reporting 857 confirmed cases and 156 deaths across 28 states from January to 28 April 2024.

This has led to the activation of the National Lassa Fever Multi-partner, Multi-sectoral Incident Management System, which is coordinating a comprehensive response at all levels to contain the outbreak and save lives.

Lassa fever is an acute and potentially fatal viral hemorrhagic disease that is endemic in many West African countries, and Nigeria experiences yearly outbreaks that typically occur during the dry season. The virus is transmitted primarily through contact with food, household items contaminated by the urine or excreta of the Mastomys natalensis rat species and through contact with body fluids of infected individuals, particularly among caregivers.

The NCDC’s official website released a Lassa fever situation report that highlights the worrisome increase in confirmed cases, which rose from 11 to 14 in the week covering 22-28 April. Additionally, the case fatality rate (CFR) stands at 18.2 per cent, which is higher than the previous year’s rate of 17.0 per cent during the same period.

The report further explains that 63 per cent of confirmed cases in 2024 were concentrated in Ondo, Edo and Bauchi states, while the remaining 37 per cent were reported from 25 other states. Despite efforts to combat the outbreak, challenges persist, including late presentation of cases, which contributes to the high CFR and poor health-seeking behavior due to the cost of treatment. Inadequate environmental sanitation and low awareness in high-burden communities also exacerbate the situation.

In response, the NCDC has mobilised resources to address the escalating crisis. The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is working closely with government agencies, healthcare providers, and the public to mitigate the spread of the disease and prevent further fatalities. The NCDC emphasised the importance of early detection, proper hygiene, and community awareness to contain the outbreak.

Early diagnosis and prompt medical care are crucial in managing the disease and preventing complications. While the predominant age group affected by Lassa fever remains 21-30 years old, no health workers were affected during the reporting week.

Prevention of Lassa fever involves avoiding contact with rodents and their droppings, practicing good personal hygiene and taking precautions when caring for infected individuals. The NCDC reiterated the need for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to contain the outbreak and save lives.

Nigeria is currently grappling with a surge in Lassa fever cases, and the situation calls for urgent and coordinated action from all stakeholders. The activation of the National Lassa Fever Multi-partner, Multi-sectoral Incident Management System shows that the country is taking proactive measures to mitigate the spread of the disease and prevent further fatalities.

Racheal Abujah
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