Lassa Fever Hits 17 States #StopLassaFever

Isaac Adewole


The federal government is not happy that some state governments are not serious about fighting the spread of Lassa fever as cases are now found in 17 states of the federation

THE federal government has accused state governments of not doing enough to curtail the spread of Lassa fever as the virus is now reported to be present in 17 states of the federation. The federal government alleged that some states were hiding some of the suspected cases in their states while others failed to take proactive measures to follow up patients.

Isaac Adewole, minister of health, who made the allegation during the emergency National Council on Health meeting on Lassa fever outbreak on Tuesday, January 19, identified Ebonyi State as one of those that did not inform the federal government about some cases.

The minister also told the council of a patient referred from Ebonyi State to Irrua Specialist Hospital in Edo State for treatment, who he said, absconded with a relative. He directed that the patient should be traced and treated. The minister told the delegates that the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, would support with more ribavirin medication to treat persons suffering from the disease.

He expressed surprise that many Nigerians had refused to believe that the epidemic was real. Adewole said: “Ordinarily, we would not have called this meeting. We are worried and we should be worried. This is why this meeting is important. This battle is not for us alone. It is a nationwide exercise.”

He, thereafter, named Oyewale Tomori, a renowned virologist, as the chairman of the 19-man committee set up by the federal government to help proffer solution to the disease. Adewole, who reiterated the capacity of the country to contain Lassa fever, explained that there were enough health professionals to manage the disease.

Adewole, however, denied claims by the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, that there were not enough diagnostic laboratories in the country. According to him, the federal government would establish new treatment centres for Niger, Bauchi, Taraba, Plateau, Ondo and Ebonyi states in addition to the already active six centres.

“We currently have testing capability in 14 testing centres some of which are in Maiduguri, Kano, Iddo, Irrua, Lagos, Port Harcourt and the FCT. We have treatment centres all over the country. We have enough personnel for managing Lassa fever. Unlike Ebola Virus Disease that is untreatable, Lassa fever is treatable. But we must start treatment on time to enable us to save the patients,” the minister said.

He emphasised that all the states in the country should be regarded as hotbed of Lassa fever. The minister said 17 states in the country were battling Lassa fever while 212 suspected cases in 62 local governments had been in existence since last year August. He also promised that the federal government would establish 109 primary healthcare centres on Lassa fever in each of the six geo-political zones of the country in the next three months.

Adewole said that government was determined to have a functional PHC centre in each ward across the country, and assured Nigerians that there would be enough drugs to treat patients suffering from the ailment. He, however, warned that state governments should “not be under the illusion that the federal government alone can take care of the health needs of this nation because we must all drive it.”

The federal government, he said, must not be the only one buying drugs for states, adding, “The federal ministry of health cannot be producing everything. Health is on the concurrent list. We must do it together.”

—  Jan 20, 2016 @ 13:00 GMT


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