The World Health Organization, (WHO), on Sunday, announced its decision to intensify efforts to support West African Countries in their response to the ongoing Lassa Fever Outbreak.
Collins Boakye-Agyemang, WHO‘s communications Manager made this known in a statement. He said that while the outbreak was fairly prevalent during the Lassa fever season, the rate of escalation was a major concern in most areas.
In his statement, he said that in Nigeria alone, 16 states were affected; about 213 cases were confirmed; including 42 deaths, which represented a significant increase.
According to him, Nigeria recorded its largest outbreak of Lassa fever with four health workers reported to have been infected so far in this current outbreak.
He, however, noted that WHO is intensifying efforts to support federal authorities, the Nigeria Center for Disease control, and the affected Nigerian States, in staging a response to the outbreak. He said that focus is shifting towards early detection and confirmation of suspected cases.
He also said that and providing adequate supportive care, ensuring infection prevention and control measures, in designated health care centers in the affected states were also top on their agenda.
12 cases have so far been confirmed in Benin, Guinea, Liberia and Togo, including two deaths, with more suspected cases currently undergoing investigation.
”Health authorities in these countries are beign assisted with contact tracing, provision of medical and non-medical supplies with technical and financial resources as needed for case management, risk communication and logistics.
”We are concerned by the high number of cases so early in the Lassa fever season, which is expected to last another four more months.
“WHO is working with health authorities in the five affected countries and will ensure that health workers have the capacity to detect cases and regional spread of the disease was monitored, “he said.
He added that WHO has provided regional control mechanism for countries to reported cases of the Lassa fever disease. This is to aid information flow and assistance coordination.
‘‘WHO will continue to advise all countries in the Lassa fever belt, to enhance their preparedness and response capacities.
“Especially for early case detection, laboratory confirmation, case management under recommended barrier nursing, risk communication and community engagement.
“Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness that occurs predominantly in West Africa, after human exposure to the urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats.
”More than 80 percent of Lassa fever cases are rodent-to-human transmission. Person-to-person transmission, occurs in both community and health-care settings.”Prevention of Lassa fever is based on promoting good “community hygiene,” to discourage rodents from entering homes.
“It could also be by storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from the home.” Also maintaining clean households, keeping cats and safe handling of anyone who may have died of the disease.
”In health care settings, health care workers should always apply standard infection prevention and control precautions when caring for patients,” he said.
World Health Organization
Guardian Health Column