Health: Lassa fever: Nigeria’s death toll rises to 110

The death toll from the Lassa fever outbreak ravaging the country since the beginning of the year has increased to 110, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said.

The health agency in its weekly situation report for week nine, released on Tuesday disclosed that 35 new confirmed cases were recorded from five states including seven deaths.

These include, Edo (19), Ondo (five), Bauchi (one), Ebonyi (nine) and Plateau (one). Seven new deaths were recorded: Ondo (two) Edo (two) and Ebonyi (three).

The country is currently battling its largest Lassa fever outbreak on record. From January 1 to March 4, 2018, 1121 suspected cases have been recorded out of which 353 are confirmed positive, eight probable, 723 negative (not a case) and 37 are awaiting laboratory results (pending). Two health workers were confirmed positive this week in Ebonyi State.

According to the NCDC, sixteen health care workers have so far been affected in six states –Ebonyi (nine), Nasarawa (one), Kogi (one), Benue (one), Ondo (one) and Edo (three) with four deaths in Ebonyi (three) and Kogi (one).

“The disease outbreak is active in 18 states: Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Kogi, Imo, Plateau, Lagos, Taraba, Delta, Osun, Rivers, FCT, Gombe and Ekiti, the NCDC report said.

“Since the onset of the 2018 outbreak, there have been 110 deaths: 78 in positive-confirmed cases, 8 in probable cases and 24 in negative cases,” states the report.

Case Fatality Rate in confirmed and probable cases is 23.8 per cent. Predominant age-group affected is 21-40 years.
The male to female ratio for confirmed cases is 2:1 while 85 per cent of all confirmed cases are from three states: Edo (44 per cent) Ondo (25 per cent) and Ebonyi (16 per cent) states.

“A total of 3126 contacts have been identified from 18 active states, of these 1586 are currently being followed up, 1485 have completed 21 days follow up and 21 of the 47 symptomatic contacts have tested positive from three states (Edo-11, Ondo-seven and Ebonyi-three),” it said.

Speaking on the increased number of suspected cases and deaths, the Chief Executive Officer, Chinkwe Ihekweazu, said there are three possible causes.

”It could be a change in the virus, it could be a change in the rat or it could just be that we have improved our surveillance system so much that we are now finding cases that were previously not been found,” he said.

He advised health workers to take necessary precautions when treating any patient with fever.
Mr. Ihekweazu also called on Nigerians to take preventive measures such as keeping their environments clean and free of rats.

He said unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for Lassa fever. “Lassa is endemic in our environment. The virus is with us. The host animals, (the multimammate rat) is in our environment. In a way, there is no magic bullet and this is really a marathon and not a sprint for Nigeria,” he said.

Meanwhile, NCDC and WHO have scaled up response at national and state levels. The agency has also deployed teams to four states: Kebbi, Kwara, Niger and Oyo for enhanced surveillance activities, the report states.

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