By Monsuru Olowoopejo
Following a reduction in Lassa fever cases recorded in Nigeria, the Federal Government has relaxed its emergency operations activated to address the sudden outbreak of the disease that claimed lives earlier in the year.
The Apex Government claimed that relax of emergency operation was approved after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), reviewed development made so far and discovered the country recorded a successive decline in cases, falling below the emergency threshold since the outbreak started earlier in Y2020.
In a statement on Tuesday, NCDC, however, warned that the reduction in cases does translate to the country is free from the disease, stressing that Nigeria remains at risk of Lassa fever cases and that the solution to prevent another emergency was for every citizen to keep their environment clean and rodent-free.
“Since the beginning of the outbreak, 979 confirmed cases including 188 deaths have been recorded from 27 States including the Federal Capital Territory as at 19th of April 2020. The Lassa fever case count has significantly declined in the last three weeks and has now dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency”.
According to the agency, it was important to highlight that this year, there was a decline in case fatality of Lassa fever, from 23 per cent in 2019 to 19 per cent in 2020.
The agency further argued that what the country recorded this year was in sharp variance to the huge cases experienced in the last two years when Lassa fever cases recorded throughout and that the peak was usually between January and April.
Despite end of the emergency phase of the outbreak, the NCDC disclosed that it would continue to coordinate the national multisectoral Lassa fever Technical Working Group (TWG) and ensures continuous monitoring of cases, as well as strengthen Lassa fever surveillance, diagnostic, treatment and other response activities in Nigeria.
According to the Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, “Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we remain focused on our prevention, detection and response to other infectious disease outbreaks in Nigeria, including Lassa fever. While we have crossed the emergency phase, we know that we will continue to record cases. The NCDC remains committed to ensuring a continuous decline in the number of people who die from Lassa fever, by early detection and appropriate treatment”.
Due to the decline, NCDC stated that it has supported peer to peer training by creating exchange programmes between states, treatment centres and laboratories, to further increase knowledge in Lassa fever containment
“Importantly, the NCDC and the major treatment centres at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki and Federal Medical Centre Owo, have begun the process for a large epidemiological study in collaboration with WHO and CEPI. This epidemiological study being implemented in Nigeria and other West African countries, is expected to contribute to Lassa fever vaccine development.
“The NCDC is also working with States and partners to establish more long-term strategies such as improved communication, regular environmental sanitation, enhanced capacity of health workers and improvement of diagnostic and treatment centres among others”, it added.