The Nigeria Centre of Disease Control (NCDC) calls the attention of Nigerians to an increasing number of Lassa fever cases, and advices increased focus on prevention and preparedness.
In the last quarter of 2016, the NCDC commenced the implementation of its Lassa Fever preparedness plan ahead of the current dry season to strengthen nationwide capacity to prevent, detect and respond to the anticipated Lassa fever cases.
Since the beginning of this current dry season in December 2016, 7 states have reported at least one case of Lassa Fever. 19 confirmed cases and 6 deaths have been reported by these 7 states, as seen in the table below.
NCDC is working closely with affected states to ensure an appropriate response to these cases. Social mobilisation activities and sensitisation of health workers are being scaled up. The outbreak response commodities that were prepositioned in the states by NCDC are being used for the response. Epidemiological response activities such as contact listing and tracing are also going in the affected states. States that had previously identified and resourced isolation units as they were advised are much better prepared to deal with cases.
It is encouraging to see that where patients present early and where healthcare workers have a high index of suspicion for Lassa fever, Lassa fever patients are walking out of the treatment centres in good health. When diagnosis and treatment is late, it reduces the likelihood of recovery. Lassa fever is curable when there is rapid laboratory testing to confirm the disease, leading to early commencement of treatment.
To prevent Lassa fever in the community, Nigerians are advised to keep their food safe from rats and rat excreta. Critically, Lassa fever transmission in healthcare settings can be prevented by strict adherence to universal precautions. Doctors and nurses are advised to hold each other accountable to insist on these precautions.
NCDC urges Nigerians to cooperate with their respective state governments in this response. Lassa is endemic in Nigeria, and molecular dating suggests that Lassa virus has been circulating in Nigeria for over a thousand years and in some other West African countries for hundreds of years. The NCDC will continue to support states across the country through this dry season. A Lassa Fever working group has been set-up at NCDC to ensure no state is left behind. Reports from states show prepositioned materials have been critical for states to respond immediately to cases.;
Prevention of Lassa fever begins with a state of awareness. This disease is preventable and can be treated. Improving food and personal hygiene is key to prevention at household level. A high index of suspicion and observing Universal safety precautions is key to prevention at the health facility level.
The NCDC wants to remind healthcare workers that they are at a higher risk of contracting Lassa. They are therefore encouraged to ensure strict infection prevention and control practices at points of care. All febrile illnesses must be tested for malaria before treatment; tests that return negative for malaria may be Lassa Fever and must flag suspicion. We encourage frontline health workers to report all suspected cases of Lassa to their Local Government Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers and/or State Epidemiologists.
For further information on how to protect yourself and family from Lassa Fever contact the NCDC through the toll-free call centre on 080097000010. We also receive feedback through our Facebook and Twitter accounts @NCDCgov.
You can also visit www.ncdc.gov.ng for more information on how the NCDC is protecting the health of Nigerians from Lassa fever and other disease threats.