Lassa fever: Lagos NMA calls for more public enlightenment, hygiene

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As Lassa fever outbreak resurfaced in Lagos State, the state chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has called for more public enlightenment and personal hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease.

Dr Olubunmi Omojowolo, a factional Chairman of NMA, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Lagos.

Omojowolo was reacting to the death of two Lassa fever patients on Tuesday at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, while a resident doctor at the hospital has been tested positive.

The Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, confirming the reports on Tuesday said that no fewer than 100 health workers exposed to the index cases were currently being monitored.

“Each of the two patients presented very late and died in spite of efforts to salvage them.

“The first was a 39-year old pregnant lady with bleeding disorder who died after a stillbirth.”

“A post-mortem examination had been conducted before her Lassa fever status was eventually suspected and confirmed,’’ Bode said.

He also confirmed that a resident doctor from the Department of Anatomic and Molecular Pathology, who took part in the autopsy, was later confirmed with the disease.

Bode said that the doctor was currently on admission and responding well to treatment at the Isolation Ward of LUTH.

He also said that two other suspected cases from the state were admitted and quarantined while undergoing confirmatory laboratory tests.

Omojowolo said, “The most important thing now is education and hygiene.

“I think in Nigeria, we take the issue of Lassa fever with levity unlike the way we handled Ebola Virus.

“One of the problem is that Lassa fever has been with us and has been recurrent, and so, people are used to it; but it is not something that we should be used to.

“Both Ebola and Lassa fever are very close and fatal illnesses and what should be done is that people should be educated.

“There should be regular jingles on radio and other media in general.

“One of the problems is the rat that carries the virus around and so, people should make sure they cover their foods very well, clean their environments and prevent rats from entering their houses.

“Also, anybody that has fever should visit the hospital on time.’’

The NMA chairman said that the main challenge with the disease was the inability to diagnose early due to the peculiarity of the symptoms which were similar to malaria including fever.

According to him, there are only few diagnostic centres for the disease and that is one of the problems of diagnosing it.

“This is why it is difficult to diagnose early; but now that we know there are cases, suspicion will be higher.

“Any patient with fever will be treated with suspicion and caution.

“Contact tracing should also be done, because the relations of the deceased should be traced and put on surveillance so that if any of them develop fever they can quickly get treatment.

“Also, the government should provide more places where patients can be treated as they need to be treated in isolation,“ Omojowolo said. (NAN)