Health

June 8, 2024

Lassa Fever: Benue state records 1,030 suspected cases, 14 deaths

lassa fever

..expert blames Benue people’s appetite for rats
..royal father advocates legislation banning rat consumption

With over 1,030 suspected cases of Lassa Fever, 66 confirmed cases and 14 deaths recorded in the last six months, the Ter Makurdi, HRH, Chief Vincent Aule has called for a legislation banning the importation and consumption of rats in Benue state.

Speaking in Makurdi at a stakeholders’ engagement and sensitisation meeting on the control of Lassa Fever in the state, organised by the State Ministry of Health, the Royal Father who expressed shock at the figure recorded during the outbreak in the state said decisive steps must be taken to check the spread of the disease in Benue.

Represented by the Kindred Head of Wurukum, Chief Simon Tov, the Ter Makurdi said for the campaign to check the rising cases of Lassa Fever in the state to be successful “we need a law by the State Assembly banning the importation and consumption of rats in Benue so that the violators of the law can be arrested and prosecuted.”

The One Health Coordinator, Benue State Ministry of Health and Human Services, Dr. Jerry Agber explained that the State Ministry of Health in collaboration with other stakeholders put the meeting together to engage and sensitise the people on the control of Lassa Fever in the state, “with particular focus on strategies to stop the importation of rats from other states to Benue, which are the vector of Lassa Fever.”

He said “overtime we have been dealing with outbreaks of Lassa Fever in Benue state. For the past two years it has been recurrent. And this year’s outbreak has been the worse of all. The cases of Lassa we had from January to this point are more than the total number we had in 2023.

“When we x-rayed the issue we discovered that one of the routes that are fueling the spread of Lassa Fever in the state is the importation of rats from other Northern states into Benue state.”

“So it became very important to call a stakeholders meeting like this where we have market women, traditional rulers, the Police, paraparamilitary organisations, the Qurantine officials, among others to interact and chart a way forward and fill the missing link that saw us record those outbreaks.”

The Lassa Fever State Focal Person for Benue state, Mrs. Benita Kanshio explained why the engagement became important saying “between December and now, we recorded 1,030 suspected cases of Lassa Fever. We had 66 confirmed cases within the outbreak and we recorded 14 deaths.

“The healthcare workers affected while managing the cases were 14 in number including two Doctors, Nurses and Community Health Workers.”

The Station Officer, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services, Makurdi, Dr. Amarachi Onyeberechi in her presentation noted that the people’s appetite for rats was contributing to the Lassa Fever outbreak in the state.

She called for concerted efforts to prohibit the importation and the consumption of rats in the state to help check the outbreak of the disease.

Dr. Onyeberechi also called for the training of surveillance officers to check the importation, the use of available technology to dictate those in the trade as well as the engagement, sensitisation and collaboration with the people to end the consumption of rats in the state to stem the spread of the disease in the state.