By Chinonso Alozie
OWERRI—GOVERNOR of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha has warned residents against handshaking, following the outbreak of Lassa fever in the state, which claimed the lives of three persons yesterday, with several others currently being treated in the hospital.
The state Commissioner for Health, Mrs. Angela Uwakwem had said, yesterday, that out of seven cases, three persons have been confirmed dead in the state.
In a statement to Vanguard in Owerri, she said that a hospital has been identified where the deceased went to and that the hospital had been cordoned off.
Uwakwem went further to say that efforts are on top gear to get relatives and friends who had contacts with the affected quarantined.
She said: “In fact, there are seven cases that we have in Imo State. We have their families and we have somebody who is in contact with them. We have three people that have died. We quarantined others and we have cordoned off the hospital that we have identified they went to.
“We have put them on a preventive treatment. We have doctors and nurses to take care of this situation. We will continue to enlighten our people on this Lassa fever outbreak. We are continuing with our assessment of the situation to know what will be the next move.”
Stop shaking hands
Confirming what the Commissioner for Health, Mrs Angela Uwakwem said, Governor, Rochas Okorocha, called on the citizens to avoid handshaking, body contacts and crowded areas.
Okorocha’s advice came through a release to newsmen in Owerri, by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo.
The governor said: “Lassa fever is caused by eating foods infected by the virus which is found in the droppings of some species of rats that eat some food and people come to eat it.
“This morning, we woke up to hear that Lassa fever has killed three persons and we also have seven cases of Lassa fever patients.This number is too large for a state. And we are concerned about the speed of spread. These cases were recorded in some hospitals, somewhere in Orlu and some other parts of the state. For this reason, we kindly advise that people should avoid over crowded areas, lessen the shaking of hands, and body contacts at this period.
“The Ministry of Health has been adequately informed to take all necessary steps to curtail the spread. But as this number has risen this morning, we like to advise that people should avoid as much as possible, some foods and body contacts especially in schools and market areas.”
While urging the residents to report any case of Lassa fever, Okorocha was of the view that “it’s nothing to worry about. We have always had issues of Lassa fever especially during periods of extreme heat.
“We advise that people should report cases of fever of any sort to the nearest hospital and doctors. By this development, they have been advised on what to do when such cases are reported.”
Investigate before treatment
Meantime, the Health Minister, Isaac Adewole, has warned all health professionals to investigate every case of fever before treatment.
“Every fever must be investigated properly and treated appropriately. No one should treat malaria without diagnosis”, Adewole warned.
The warning is coming as Lassa fever, a killer disease, resurfaces in parts of the country.
In 10 days, Lassa fever, a disease commonly caused by contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces, has already claimed about 13 lives including health workers in Ebonyi, Kogi and Ondo.