Nigerian health officials announced Thursday the end of the emergency phase of the 2018 Lassa fever outbreak.

Image/Robert Herriman
Image/Robert Herriman

The 2018 outbreak, the largest Lassa fever outbreak recorded in the country, accounted for 423 confirmed cases, including 106 deaths since January.

However, in the last six weeks, there has been a decline in the number of new cases of Lassa fever, prompting the decision.

The Federal Ministry of Health through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and partners led by the World Health Organization (WHO), have led response activities across the country. This includes strengthening of infrastructure at the three main treatment centres in Irrua, Owo and Abakaliki; inclusion of a fourth laboratory for Lassa fever diagnosis at the Virology Centre, Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki; deployment of Rapid Response Teams to affected States; provision of drugs and personal protective equipment for treatment as well as risk communications activities to increase awareness across the country.

Given the epidemiology of Lassa fever in Nigeria, it is likely that the country will continue to record cases of Lassa fever.

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Despite the end of the emergency phase of this outbreak, NCDC and its partners will continue to maintain intensive preparedness and response activities for Lassa fever.

According to Honorable Minister of Health for Nigeria, Professor Isaac Adewole “The response to this outbreak has been an example of how outbreak response should work, collaboration between Federal and State Governments, between Nigeria and international partners, between public health and clinical services. However, we know that now is not the time to celebrate, but to reinvigorate our efforts to learn more on how to prevent, detect and control Lassa fever in Nigeria”.