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Nigeria battles outbreak of Lassa fever as death toll rises

Monday February 8 2016

A woman administers oral drops to a child in the Dawanau district of Kano, northern Nigera, during a polio immunization campaign. Kano is among Nigerian cities worst hit by the Lassa fever. PHOTO | afp

A woman administers oral drops to a child in the Dawanau district of Kano, northern Nigera, during a polio immunization campaign. Kano is among Nigerian cities worst hit by the Lassa fever. PHOTO | afp 

MOHAMMED MOMOH
By MOHAMMED MOMOH
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ABUJA, Sunday

In spite of assurances if curtailment of Lassa fever, death toll has increased to 101 from the 76 reported in January.

The more Nigeria battles the outbreak the disease increases spreading from 16 states in January to 22, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) statistics showed that cases of the haemorrhagic disease now stood at 223.

The ministry of health had said the virus had been brought under control, there are fears the actual scale of the outbreak is under-reported.

The NCDC said officials have distributed large quantities of drugs, including Ribavirin tablets and bottles of hand sanitizers across the country to tackle the disease.

It, however, reported that logistics support and delayed reporting of cases by states are dogging the fight against Lassa fever.

The outbreak hit the climax in early January after the first reported death was recorded in Kano in November 2015.

As at January, 76 deaths had been recorded and 212 cases reported.

There are indications that In neighbouring Benin, at least nine people have died in a Lassa outbreak, with a total of 20 suspected cases.

Its name is from the town of Lassa in Borno State where it was first identified in 1969.

INTERNAL BLEEDING

Endemic to the region, Lassa fever is asymptomatic in 80 per cent of cases but for others it can cause internal bleeding, especially when diagnosed late.
Lassa fever is an acute and often fatal viral disease, occurring mainly in West Africa.

It is usually transmitted by contact with the saliva or excreta of rats accessing homes and food stores.

It is first described in 1969 in the town of Lassa in Nigeria. In some cases, Lassa fever has similar symptoms with malaria.

The latest outbreak is said to be the worst of the virus in Nigeria in the past four years.

The Nigerian government has designated isolation wards for the management of suspected Lassa fever cases in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and its environs, an official said.

Mr Olutayo Haastrup, spokesperson of the National Hospital Abuja told Xinhua in the capital city that the hospital had prepared four isolation wards.

‘‘The hospital is fully prepared, measures have been taken and as soon as we have any suspected case of Lassa, we will be proactive in handling it,” he added.
According to him, the hospital has trained 200 health personnel on the treatment and management of the virus.