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Lassa Fever at Your Doorstep

Ondo alone has recorded 84 cases of the disease from January 1st with 16 deaths.

In Kano state, north-western Nigeria, a 28-year-old pregnant woman from Gwale local government area fell sick two weeks after the death of her mother. She was referred from a private hospital to the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital where she was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital. She was made to see a consultant as her case was unlike most peoples.

As she needed to undergo a cesarean session to birth her child because her health was deteriorating. After a successful “CS” operation, the pregnant woman, one doctor, one health worker and a consultant that took charge of her when she was moved to the intensive care unit all began to show similar symptoms. The woman and the consultant died shortly after on January 1.

Springing to action, the health educator in Tarauni local government alerted the ministry of health in the state that the Aminu Kano Teaching hospital has suspected cases of Lassa fever. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Ibrahim Tsanyawa then ordered that samples be taken to faraway Abuja for investigation and it turned out that it was indeed Lassa fever, at which time the other doctor and the health worker had also lost their lives on January 21 with a third doctor condemned to the Isolation centre at Yar Gaya area of Kano.

A little too late, Commissioner Ibrahim reactivated the state isolation centre as well as the state Rapid Response Team repositioning of drugs and consumables to prevent the outbreak of the disease.

In Ondo State, western Nigeria, the State Epidemiologist, Dr. Steven Fagbemi revealed that Ondo alone has recorded 84 cases of the disease from January 1st with 16 deaths.

As alarming as these numbers are, NSCDC reported that between January 1st and 19th, a total of 398 suspected cases were recorded from nine states across the country with 24 deaths recorded.

Lassa fever Demystified

When a person comes in contact with the virus, he gets a fever and general weakness. After a few days, he is faced head-on with headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and abdominal pain. His face begins to swell, fluid fills his lung cavity, and he begins to bleed uncontrollably from his mouth, nose, and gastrointestinal tract as he also battles low blood pressure.

In the later stages, he begins to experience shock, seizures, tremor, disorientation, and finally coma. If he is lucky, he survives it with deafness, hair loss, and gait disturbance. If not, he dies within 14 days. Lassa fever is especially severe in late pregnancy, with maternal death and/or fatal loss occurring in more than 80% of cases during the third trimester.

The Nigerian Factor Aiding Outbreak

Mastomys rat infected with Lassa virus finds its way to Iya Jide’s Garri that she has taken time to fry. Iya Jide is a producer of Garri in Ogun state and supplies to at least 50 retailers who depend on her to meet the needs of their customers.

The rat in search of food nibbles on the Garri and takes out time to pass out its infected urine and faeces on the Garri. Haven worked till late in the night hence no time to properly package and seal the Garri, Iya Jide wakes up to do just that as some of the Garri need to be in neighbouring Oyo and Edo and of course, she will make her ‘Eba’ from it.

80% of Nigerians depend on Garri and other grains that are produced by locals with little or no consideration for hygiene.

In a general hospital in Oyo state, Elizabeth gets admitted after complaining to her doctor that she has a fever but her symptoms deteriorate, Unknown to her doctor she took Iya Jide’s Garri with groundnut. Lizzy was not quarantined immediately and her bodily fluid was not handled with care so the doctors get infected too.

This is Nigeria, please cook your meat properly. Don’t get me started on your fruits, clean and cut them yourself.

It takes nothing to promote good “community hygiene” to discourage rodents from entering your home. You will not die if you store your grains and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers. Don’t be lazy; dispose of your garbage far from home. Maintain a clean household and keep cats (If you can stand them).

As for hospitals, please save those of us that can’t afford to go abroad for treatment by taking extra care, apply standard infection prevention and control precautions when caring for patients, regardless of their presumed diagnosis.

There is currently no vaccine that protects against Lassa fever, so remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.