- 102 enlisted for surveillance
By Oswald Agwu
Since the recent resurgence of Lassa fever outbreak in some parts of Ebonyi State late December, following the death of one Ephraim Ogaranya at Ndubia Igbeagu in Izzi local government area, the state government has not rested on its oars in ensuring that the scourge is contained.
Apart from the immediate sealing of the mission hospital where the victim was hospitalized and consequently, ordering that the staff and other patients in the facility be quarantined for necessary observation, the government, through the State Ministry of Health has further inaugurated a team of experts who have been working round the clock to not only intensify surveillance, but also ensure that suspected cases were effectively managed at the Southeast Virology center built by Governor David Umahi.
Drawn by the development, a team of experts from the National Centre for Disease Control and those of the Medecins Sans Frontiers, also known as Doctors Without Borders have arrived the State to lend further support to the State Government.
While the NCDC also donated hospital and personal protective equipment worth millions of naira to the State Ministry of Health for Lassa Fever Management, the MSF donated 4 number brand new Motorcycles to aid surveillance.
Receiving the teams on Thursday at the Ministry’s headquarters, Centenary City, Abakaliki, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezurike explained that at report time, the only 3 identified cases of the fever were receiving treatment at the virology center while 102 contacts have been enlisted for surveillance.
He noted that the State rapid response team have been properly energized and have been diligent accounting for the unusual low fatalities recorded so far.
Umezurike said: “There was reported case of Lassa Fever outbreak that happened in December, 2019, and the situation report at present is that we have three cases receiving treatment at the Virology Center.
“And so far, we have energised our rapid response team to move into action and we have enlisted 102 contacts for surveillance and follow-up.
“And the National Centre for disease control have also sent their rapid response team to support the State team, and we are going to work as a team as always.
“They are supporting us with the following items: 200 pieces of thermometer, 200 Big Hand Sanitizers, Injections and tablets, face masks, goggles, personal protective equipment, body bags, Boots Jik and Gloves.
“In the same vein, we want to thank the MSF, also known as Doctors without Borders for also supporting Ebonyi State with 4 brand new CG 125 motorcycles to support our surveillance activities.
“We are very pleased because surveillance is key in Lassa Fever control and indeed, all contagious diseases.
“This is because when you have a good surveillance, it is easier to detect early occurrence of these diseases, and key to success in testing and treating any of these diseases is early detection.”
Umezurike who appreciated the NCDC and the MSF for providing the medicines and equipment expressed joy that they would further help the State in its interventions to contain the outbreak,
He assured that the Ministry would judiciously utilize them for the purpose they were provided.
The leader of the NCDC team who declined to give her name said they were in the State to represent the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chinwe Ihekweazu, adding that their mission was to deliver the equipment as well as lend technical support in collaboration with other partners to stem the outbreak.
While appreciating the efforts of the State Government so far in containing the outbreak, she revealed that their mission in the State would last for two weeks.
In an exclusive interview, the State Epidemiologist, Dr. Emeka Sampson observed that the outbreak was usually at peak during dry seasons and advocated behavioural change as key toward eradicating the virus.
According to him, people should desist from bush burning, contact with rats, exposing foods, other consumables to rats while imbibing the habit of constant hand washing.
Sampson explained further, “What we are advocating is for the masses to imbibe attitudes that will prevent Lassa Fever.
“This is dry season, and we advise that people should desist from bush burning because through bush burning, most of these rats will move from the bush, and because you have destroyed their home, they will come and live with you in your home and be causing trouble.
“That is why dry seasons often present the peak of this sickness.
“People should stop spreading their rice, Garri and other food stuff along the roads and open places where rats will just come, eat and pass urine.
“You may not know and the urine with the virus could dry with the foodstuff which may stay up to 10 days or more.
“People should also cover their food in rat proof containers as well as reduce rat -to -man contact as much as possible.
“Cover all rat holes in living places and imbibe preventive attitude of constant hand washing/ use of sanitizers while ensuring that you Wash everything you have to eat.”
The epidemiologist further noted that the virus is a weak one, and hand washing with common detergent was capable of reducing it up to 95 percent.
He admonished people to always present persistent fever which defied regular treatments for about two days to the nearest health facility or contact the State response team, stressing that Lassa Fever testing and treatment at the virology center in the State is totally free, irrespective of the patients State of origin.
Lassa Fever is an haemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus spread by a specific rat specie known as Mastomys natalensis which is common in West Africa.
It could be life threatening if not identified in time. it comes with increasing, persistent fever and in severe cases, attacks the essential organs such as liver, kidney etc resulting to death.
For over 10 years, Lassa Fever had always wrecked havoc, especially during dry seasons in the State.
Governor David Umahi, following his construction and equipping of the Virology Centre, later taken over by the federal government, had drastically reduced fatalities arising from the yearly outbreak.
The Virology Center, the first of its kind to be built by any State Governor is now the only one serving both the South-East and South South zones of the country, even beyond.