There is no vaccine against Lassa fever in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health has warned, urging strict adherence to preventive measures.
Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, Minister of State for Health told newsmen on Friday in Abuja while providing an update on preparedness for Coronavirus (COVID19), and Lassa Fever in the country, that the World Health Organisation and some other global public health entities were working to develop an effective vaccine for the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that in 2017, the National Institute of Health awarded Tulane University in America, more than $12 million to test a promising drug against the Lassa fever virus.
The grant would also go into developing a vaccine based on a recently discovered key antibody target on the surface of the virus.
Mamora said that significant progress had been made in the identification of the most promising vaccine candidates for the prevention of Lassa fever.
“We are responding to Lassa fever outbreak. Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 16, we had 586 confirmed cases with 103 deaths from 26 states. Of the confirmed cases, 73 per cent came from Edo,” he said.
He stated that the decline in the number of deaths from Lassa fever compared to previous years was an important outcome that testified to hard work from all relevant agencies.
“We will continue working with other government agencies, states and tertiary hospitals to protect the health of Nigerians.
“Public awareness is vital in the fight against infectious diseases. Lassa fever and COVID19 are threatening lives on this earth.
“Let us create awareness in our society,” he said.
The minister noted that the most important preventive methods against Lassa fever outbreak was the elimination of rodent habitats by improving sanitation, safe food storage and preparation, and clean water access.
Mamora said that in health care facilities, suspected cases required strict infection control precautions to prevent contact with blood, body fluids and contaminated surfaces around infected patients.
“Hand hygiene requires washing with soap and water or using alcohol-based sanitiser between patients.
“Safe injection practices require use of disposable rather than reusable needles. Similar personal protective measures are needed for safe laboratory handling and safe mortuary services,” he advised.
He asked Nigerians to ensure that they keep their homes clean to prevent rats which were carriers of the virus that causes Lassa fever.
On COVID19, he said information available to Nigerian government was that the first case of virus had been reported from Egypt and that the affected person was a foreigner.
Mamora added that the Ministry had put together an inter-ministerial committee to provide oversight leadership. He said the committee was being coordinated by NCDC and that it meets twice a week.
“Nigeria is receiving technical support from the World Health Organisation, (WHO), Africa Centre for Disease Control and West African Health Organisation,” said Mamora.
He added that the Port Health Services had intensified screening of passengers coming from China and other countries of high risk, adding that screening forms had been provided to all airlines.
“As at now, there is no report of any confirmed case in Nigeria. Clinicians are being trained on management of cases at the moment. We are developing a stockpile of medical supplies to be used in the event of any outbreak.
“Our capacity for testing has been enhanced because we have three laboratories in Edo, Lagos states and Abuja,” he said.
On the outbreak of strange disease in Benue, which reportedly killed some people, the minister said that government was screening the use of certain chemicals for fishing in some rivers.
“From our findings, the chemicals contaminate the fishes and the body of the water, which results in the death of those who consumed them,” he said.