Miss Jane (not real name) was diagnosed with Lassa fever after battling malaria.
She said “I thought I had malaria because I was treating malaria that refused to subside, but when they carried out a test, I was diagnosed with lassa fever.”
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She said she was lucky to have survived it after spending over a month in the hospital.
“Once the doctor says you are suffering from Lassa fever, it seems like a death sentence. I didn’t think I would survive it. I spent over a month at Irua Specialist hospital, but thank God I am alive today,” she said.
Many others were not so lucky as Jane as they died of the disease.
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that since the outbreak of the disease in January, Edo State, which is one of the endemic states in the country, has recorded 176 cases and about 24 deaths.
Eleven of the 18 local government areas are affected by the Lassa fever outbreak, but Etsako West and Esan West are the most endemic.
The two local governments it was learnt account for 64 per cent of the confirmed positive cases and 54 per cent of deaths recorded.
It was learnt that in March, 160 cases were recorded with 20 deaths, while in early April, the case rose to 176 and 24 deaths.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the disease always resurges in the state between January and April every year. And as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus, the state government had set up a task force headed by the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, to fight the virus.
The state government adopted a sensitization campaign and operation to rid the environment of rats, which are the vector carrying the virus.
Daily Trust on Sunday further learnt that late presentation for treatment by patients resulted in high fatality recorded in the state.
It also gathered that following the measures put in place by the federal and state governments, the Irrua Specialists Hospital has been able to keep the fatality rate below 10 per cent.
A resident, Habib Musa, in one of the endemic local governments, said that Lassa fever is a dangerous disease that one should not wish for his enemy. “People hardly survive it; it puts the whole family in trauma and drains resources from the family of affected persons. Now, people are mindful of how they spread grains and other items to ward off the virus.”
State goes after rats
Edo Commissioner of Health, Prof. Obehi Akoria, who announced that the positive cases in the state stood at 176 as at April 5, said the state government is committed to eradicating it, focusing on ending the breed of rats that cause the disease.
She described the disease as a pandemic that is still ravaging some communities in the state.
She called on residents of the state to join hands with relevant authorities to manage and keep their environment clean.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday on the development, the chairman, Edo State chapter of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Harrison Omokhua, noted that the association is not comfortable with the number of reported cases and death.
“Because we have some endemic local governments, we will continue to have a resurgence every year, especially during heat and dry seasons, but I am not comfortable with the figures,” he said.
He said some of the cases recorded in the state were from neighbouring Ondo State.
“I am aware that our neighbouring Ondo State also has high index of Lassa fever and they also bring patients to Edo State for treatment at Irrua Specialist Hospital which is the centre for the treatment of Lassa fever, so a number of patients may be counted as patients from Edo,” he added.
He said the association has continued to enlighten the general public on what to do regarding the disease.
He advised that people should do all they can to control the vector (rats) carrying the virus and stop spreading grains outside to avoid rats defecating on them.
He advised the government to provide more testing and treatment centres, saying that ISH is the only hospital that manages Lassa Fever in Edo State and one of the only two in the country.
On his part, the Chief Medical Director, Irrua Specialists Hospital, Prof. Sylvanus Okongbeni, said the hospital has been making progress in the treatment of Lassa fever.
“Lassa fever season is gradually going down, the peak is between January and April and we are getting toward the end of the peak so we are expecting that towards the end of April, the case would be very few.
“We have made a lot of progress in terms of reduction of mortality, and right now, we have been able to meet the national target of reducing the mortality below 10 per cent,” he said.
He said that since the beginning of the Lassa fever, no health worker has been affected or died of the disease while treating affected patients.
“Lassa fever is real and people should take precautions by carrying out sanitation around and within their homes, cover and block all the holes that rats gain access to the house, and also cover the food so that rats can’t get access.”
He advised those who eat rats to desist from it as in the process of preparing the rats, people might get infected.
The state epidemiologist, Dr. Uwa Okhuarobo, said the state government has embarked on serious measures to curtail the virus in the state.
“There is much awareness of Lassa fever compared to what it used to be in the past. People now walk into Irrua Specialist Hospital to get the test done even without anybody talking to them.
“People are more aware of the causes of Lassa fever, prevention and what to do when they have the symptoms,” he added.
He said that though the ISH is a federal government institution, the state government is supporting the hospital, which is the centre dedicated to managing Lassa fever.
“The state government is supporting the hospital to build a Lassa fever isolation ward, and in the past, it supported the hospital with dialysis and other equipment,” he said.
Dr. Okhuarobo, however, called on people to always go for the Lassa test after treating malaria for 24 or 48 hours without subsiding so as to commence early treatment.
Edo to build more testing facilities
As part of efforts to curtail the spread of Lassa fever in Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki, has disclosed plans to build more testing facilities in the state.
The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akoria, disclosed this while briefing journalists after the weekly State Executive Council (EXCO) meeting chaired by Governor Obaseki.
“We are hopeful that within the next couple of weeks, we will have two more facilities in addition to the already existing one at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital.
She said the state government is working with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to create additional testing facilities in Edo North, specifically at the Edo State University, Uzairue.
She stated further that from April 22, its partners from America, under the auspices of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in America, will be in the state to provide free medical services.
According to her, the government has expanded the testing site for the free medical service to include the primary health care centre at Ugbekun and Iwokpan Primary Healthcare centre on Lucky Way, adding that people are there to provide free medical services.