BARELY a year and a half after the Ebola plague and its containment, the nation is grappling with another scourge, Lassa Fever. So far, 41 lives have been lost and cases have been confirmed in 10 states accross the country namely: Plateau, Gombe, Bauchi, Taraba, Nassarawa, Niger, Kano, Edo, Ondo and Oyo. There were unconfirmed cases in Lagos and Rivers. The situation has fuelled a fresh fear of more loss of lives if urgent steps are not taken to stem the tide of its spread.
Lassa Fever manifests itself in the form of an haemmorrhagic fever [bleeding fever] caused by lassa virus.It has its origin in a small town called Lassa in Borno State back in 1969, where it was first discovered. It is a communicable disease that can be contracted through contact with the urine and faeces of rats. Transmission through breast milk has also been observed.
Its mild but ravaging symptoms are: weakness, headaches, slight fever, and general malaise. At the advanced stage, carriers suffer haemorrhaging of the eyes, gums or nose, repeated vomiting, respiratory distress, back pain, chest pain, abdominal pain, facial swelling, shock tremors, hearing loss and inflammation of the brain. Lassa fever is an annual epidemic that records 300,000 to 500,000 cases each year resulting in about 5,000 deaths globally. This figure is,however, disputable due to inaccurate survey.
That’s why we call on the Federal Government to take urgent and sustainable preventive cum curative measures to prevent it’s further spread just as it was done in the case of Ebola in 2014.Hence,we commend the report that funds have been made available for this purpose. However, we recommend that appropriate government agencies and departments should ensure that the funds are not diverted but quickly disbursed to the affected states who are expected to channel them to various local governments for appropriate actions.
We equally advocate for rigorous sensitization and awareness campaigns in communities to educate people on preventions. In the same vein, sanitary inspection units of various local governments should be revived and their personnel should be properly retrained for the arduous task. They should see to it that clean and hygienic drainage systems are maintained in homes and streets. They should also ensure enforcement of proper and regular waste disposal. We equally urge all states of the federation to embrace and enforce the monthly environmental sanitation which should include bush cutting to prevent rat breeding. The exercise should be replicated weekly in markets and motor parks.
We also recommend that there should be a concerted effort to educate citizens on food storage. Individuals and families should be made to appreciate the danger of eating rodents [bush meat]. Food and other consumables contaminated with rat secretions should be promptly discarded. Similarly drying food at open spaces and road sides where there may be contact with rats should be discouraged, while food cooked in the kitchen should be covered at all times and kept in rat proof containers.