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Lassa fever gets national day, puts 29m at risk

Nigeria has dedicated September 27 every year to raise community awareness on Lassa fever for the first time in 45 years since it was discovered.…

Nigeria has dedicated September 27 every year to raise community awareness on Lassa fever for the first time in 45 years since it was discovered.
Decision on a day targeting Lassa came after an outbreak of the rat-borne disease in 2012 affected 26 states, infected 1944 people and killed another 207, including health workers tending patients.

It was the widest spread of the disease on record beyond areas previously considered epicenters of Lassa.

“The epicenters of the disease have always been Edo, Nasarawa, Plateau, Ebonyi, Oyo, Taraba, Ondo, Lagos and Benue, but recent outbreaks have indicated that the geographical spread is expanding and that more states are at risk of the outbreak,” said health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu.

At least 29 million Nigerians are considered at risk, the health ministry said.

The newly launched National Lassa Fever Day (LFD) targets “uninformed Nigerians who as a result of ignorance take no action to prevent infection to themselves, their families and eventually the communities,” said Chukwu.

The first LFD highlights engaging communities in action to prevent the disease.

It also demands health workers to “raise the bar on their index of suspicion for Lassa Fever,” said Chukwu in comments delivered by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control director Abdulsalami Nasidi.

“It is no more business as usual. We’ve conquered Ebola; now it is under control. So we shall do with Lassa Fever.”

Lassa is grouped alongside haemorrhagic fevers as Ebola and dengue, and its viciousness is considered midway between Ebola and dengue, according to virologist Tekena Harry.

Vaccine developed for Lassa has not been tried for possible use.

But treatment for Lassa fever, which has been endemic in Nigeria for over a decade, has been helped with drugs and early detection of infection.

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