Four cases of Lassa fever were reported among health care workers in Ebonyi State in southeastern Nigeria, with three passing away from the lethal viral disease, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said.
The Honorable Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, immediately requested that NCDC provides support to the Government of Ebonyi State, to investigate and respond to this cluster of cases.
Following the report, the Federal Ministry of Health through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) immediately commenced the public health response, supporting the Ebonyi State Ministry of Health. A Rapid Response Team has been immediately deployed from NCDC to support the State in response coordination, contact tracing, case management and strengthening infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures. The NCDC has also provided urgently required medical supplies and drugs to support case management in the State.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, ‘Health care workers in health facilities are particularly at risk of contracting the disease, especially where infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures are not strictly adhered to. We therefore strongly advise that health care workers practice universal care precautions while handling patients at all times, not just when Lassa fever is suspected. We commiserate with the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (FETHA) and Ebonyi State Government, and will support them to avert a future occurrence’.
Health care workers are again reminded that Lassa fever presents initially like any other disease causing a febrile illness such as malaria; and are advised to practice universal care precautions at all times. Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) must be applied to all suspected cases of malaria. When the RDT is negative, other causes of febrile illness including Lassa fever should be considered.
Extra caution should be taken by family members who are providing care for patients with Lassa fever. In addition, States are encouraged to ensure safe burial practices for patients who die from Lassa fever.
Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses. It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with rodent excreta. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa.
Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in the hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control measures. Diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential.
The symptoms of Lassa fever typically occur 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus. These include fever, retrosternal pain (pain behind the chest wall), sore throat, back pain, cough, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, facial swelling, proteinuria (protein in the urine), and mucosal bleeding. Neurological problems have also been described, including hearing loss, tremors, and encephalitis.
There is no vaccine currently available for Lassa fever.
The Lassa virus and was 1st described in 1969 in the town of Lassa, in Borno State, Nigeria.
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