Delta State health ministry confirms four cases of Lassa fever

Four cases of Lassa fever have been reported in Delta State, the Commissioner for Health, Joseph Onojaeme has confirmed.

He advised the locals to make sure that their homes and surroundings are always free of rats and to maintain a clean environment at all times.

Lassa fever is an animal-borne, or zoonotic, acute viral illness spread by the common African rat. It is endemic in parts of West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. Neighboring countries are also at risk because the animal vector lives throughout the region. The first documented case occurred in 1969. Lassa fever is named after the town in Nigeria where the first cases occurred.

Onojaeme listed the impacted local government areas, which include Okpe, Oshimili North, Oshimili South, and Ndokwa East Council areas, in an interview with reporters in Asaba on Friday, March 22.

Emergency Operation Centers, EOCs,  have been established throughout the state, he claims, to keep an eye on the situation and make sure locals are aware of it.

“Though the overall fatality rate for Lassa fever is one, we have four confirmed cases with a 50% fatality rate so far documented in week 12, though the general fatality rate for Lassa fever is 1 – 15% so we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that we curtail the transmission from patient to health workers and from patients to relatives,” the commissioner disclosed.

He said the government is doing a lot of advocacy, especially to health workers, and sensitisation of residents to have a high index of suspicion when they see those cases.

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He said that the State government is working closely with Irrua Specialist Hospital, Edo State, and has been able to achieve less than 24 hours of getting test results on Lassa fever as against what was commonly obtainable which was within the range of 72 hours.”

Dr. Mildred Igunbor, the State Epidemiologist, stated that one case of Lassa fever constitutes an outbreak, and that all hands must be on deck to ensure the disease’s eradication.She explained that the State government has established a multi-sectorial EOC, which includes officials from the Ministries of Environment, Agriculture, and Natural Resources, among others, and where several partners and subject matter experts meet to discuss how to combat the disease and its spread.

Lassa Fever

She emphasized that, Lassa fever is transmitted through contact with the feces or urine of rats on foods, so we are educating residents on the importance of ensuring rats do not come into contact with their food in the first place.

“To ensure prevention and control measures are in place in our health facilities, health workers must maintain a high level of suspicion. We want to remind everyone that not all fevers are malaria, so if you are sick, please go to your nearest health facility or a qualified medical personnel for treatment. So if you get there and the health personnel have a high level of suspicion, you will be tested, and based on the results, such patient will be properly managed,” she added.

Igunbor stated that the Isolation Center in the Federal Medical Center Asaba, built by the State Government, has the capacity to isolate and manage confirmed cases, and if referrals are required, they will be transferred to Irrua Specialist Hospital, Edo State.

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