By Joseph Erunke – Abuja
Against the backdrop of a renewed outbreak of Lassa fever in the country, the Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Manhood, has directed all environmental health experts at the federal, state and local government levels to immediately reembark on massive awareness campaigns aimed at controlling the spread.
Addressing the media Monday, in Abuja, the minister while regretting the report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, that 195 cases have been confirmed with 29 deaths recorded in 11 states, said the experts were equally directed to embark on surveillance of premises with a view to identifying rodents’ harbourage.
According to him, the environmental health experts were tasked to destroy and eradicate rodents in homes, commercial and industrial premises.
Another task gave them, the minister explained, was also to affect pest and vector control services, notably,”deratization of market places and homes.”
The environmental health professionals were equally empowered to develop sanitary means and facilities for drying of food cereals, legumes, and tubers to ward off their invasion by rodents.
The minister, who said the ministry was putting in place environmental health and sanitation surveillance system, explained that the “system will strengthen the cooperation between the state and the federal government on environmental health sanitation issues.”
“It will also help in the information or data gathering and sharing between the federal, states and local governments,” he stressed.
He disclosed that the ministry through the Environment Health Registration Council of Nigeria, EHORECON, was also organising capacity development on Entomology and Public Health Pest control to study more especially those rodents of public health importance in order to control them.
He advised citizens to imbibe good sanitation and hygiene practices and take preventive and control measures which he said, included “keeping the environment clean to avoid rodents; keeping food away from rodents; storing grains and other foodstuffs in rodents proof containers and disposing of wastes regularly and far away from homes. ”
Other measures, he said, were, “Cooking all foods thoroughly; blocking rat hideouts,deratization, washing of hands regularly with soap and running water as well as using protective equipment like masks, gloves, gowns among others in healthcare centres and when caring for the sick.”
Dr. Mohammad Manhood, who equally enjoined citizens to avoid or stop eating rats as much as possible, officers of the ministry and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had begun phone-in program at Radio Nigeria to sensitize the public on Lassa fever outbreak as well as create awareness on preventive and control measures.
“This sensitisation will be a continuous exercise and will be taken down to the grassroots such as local communities, mosques, churches, markets, schools, motor parks, restaurants, hotels and to any place where there is the likelihood of large gathering,” he added.