The World Health Organization (WHO), in a recent statement said some 17,500 cases of infections were registered and about 1000 deaths recorded from meningitis. It identified the most affected states to include Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe, Taraba and Zamfara. The hot season usually last longer in the northern parts of the country which means that the epidemics may continue to grip those in that section of the country unless the current efforts to curb the infection succeed.
In the case of Lassa fever the infections are mostly spread at the grassroots with uncertain figures of the victims. However, it is certain that the virus has been spreading across geographical barriers from the north to southern parts of the country. Though the annual occurrence of the infection has no specific time, it usually occurs during the dry season when the carrier rodents migrate to homes after destruction of their habitat in the bush by fires. The rural people who are ignorant of this development continued to be infected by the fever virus without knowing the appropriate response to take.
The Federal Ministry of health which has the primary mandate on the health of the nation has been very active in the campaign against the epidemics. In addition to the collaborative activities, the ministry has also deployed large quantities of vaccines for inoculation nationwide. Additionally, the ministry with the support of the WHO has commenced diseases surveillance.
The people need to know how to protect themselves from the epidemics. Experts say cerebrospinal meningitis popularly known as CSM is caused by a germ called Nesseria meningitides which usually cause inflammation of the lining of the brain and the spinal cord. When the disease occurs, many people are usually infected at the same time, causing serious sickness and sometimes death. Some of the symptoms associated with the sickness include fever, vomiting, stiff neck severe headache and drowsiness or unconsciousness. For babies, the symptoms may include refusal to eat, irritability, rapid breathing, floppy body, pale skin and rashes on the body. The common modes of transmission of the causal germ include close unprotected contact and sharing of contaminated fluids from the infected person. The experts say upon infection, the symptoms may take between 2 to 10 days to show. The good news about the disease is that it could both be prevented and treated. Vaccination could be used for the prevention that lasts for about 2 years. Additionally, good personal hygiene and proper ventilation also help in curbing the spread of the causal germ. However, when infected, the treatment must be carried out urgently with the proper antibiotics for chances of survival of the infected person.
In the case of Lassa fever, experts say the causal virus is mainly spread through the transmitting rodents. The infection is caused by eating foods contaminated by the excreta of the rodents and sharing of fluids from infected person. The illness usually starts with the common feverish condition such as general weakness and malaise. Thereafter, other symptoms may appear such as headache, sore throat, pain behind the breast bone, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, abdominal pain and red spots. In severe cases, it may progress to swollen face, bleeding, gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure. The infected could both be prevented and treated. As preventive measures there is need for good personal hygiene, proper covering of foods, discard any food eaten by rats, block access of rats to homes among others. The experts recommend early treatment of suspected cases with Oral Ribavirin with the use of Ribavirin injection for severe cases and barrier nursing.
The campaign against the epidemics must be fought collectively to achieve the desired result of overcoming the health hazards. With the government carrying its own responsibilities, communities and individuals must be alive to their roles. The enlightened members of the communities must assist in speeding information about the epidemics to benefit the grassroots. Individuals must also seek the useful information and utilize them properly.
Ezekiel is of the National Emergency Management Agency, 8 Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, Maitama, Abuja