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Lassa Fever Kills More Nigerias Than Ebola As Death Toll Hits 101 in 19 States

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Lassa-Fever-RatsStatistics from Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have shown that reported cases of Lassa fever, a hemorrhagic disease, confirmed and suspected, stood at 175 with a total of 101 deaths since August, even as only 8 persons died of the dreaded Ebola virus.

The agency in a statement yesterday said, “As at today, 19 (including Abuja) states are currently following up contacts or have suspected cases with laboratory results pending or laboratory confirmed cases.”

The Street Reporters recall that the first Ebola case in Nigeria was a Liberian-American, who flew from Liberia to Nigeria’s most populated city of Lagos on July 20, 2014, during the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration.

By August 6, then Nigerian health minister, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu, told reporters that one of the nurses that attended to the Liberian died from the disease.

Five newly confirmed cases were treated at an isolation ward.

But by September 22, 2014, the Nigeria health ministry announced, “As of today, there is no case of Ebola in Nigeria.”

However, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 20 cases and 8 deaths were confirmed, including the imported case, who also died.

Four of the dead were health care workers who had cared for the index case.

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The WHO’s representative in Nigeria officially declared Nigeria to be Ebola free on 20 October after no new active cases were reported in the follow up contacts, stating it was a spectacular success story.

The now disturbing 101 Lassa fever deaths in Nigeria were recorded in Abuja, Lagos and 14 other states.

Assuring that the virus had been brought under control, officials have, however, distributed large quantities of drugs, including Ribavirin tablets and bottles of hand sanitizers across the country to tackle the disease.

NCDC said its challenge are logistics support and delayed reporting of cases by states.

The outbreak was only announced in January — months after the first case occurred in August — with subsequent deaths reported in 10 states, including Abuja.

Last year, 12 people died in Nigeria out of 375 infected while in 2012 there were 1,723 cases and 112 deaths, according to the NCDC.

The disease belongs to the same family as Marburg and Ebola, two deadly viruses that lead to infections with fever, vomiting and, in worse case scenarios, hemorrhagic bleeding.

Its name is from the town of Lassa in Borno State where it was first identified in 1969.

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Endemic to the region, Lassa fever is asymptomatic in 80 percent of cases but for others it can cause internal bleeding, especially when diagnosed late.

lassa fever ratThe virus is spread through contact with food or household items contaminated with rats’ urine or faeces or after coming in direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

Full Text Of WHO Statement Declaring Nigeria Ebola Free

The Ebola virus was introduced into Nigeria on 20 July 2014 when an infected Liberian man arrived by aeroplane into Lagos, Africa’s most populous city. The man, who died in hospital 5 days later, set off a chain of transmission that infected a total of 19 people, of whom 7 died.

According to WHO recommendations, the end of an Ebola virus disease outbreak in a country can be declared once 42 days have passed and no new cases have been detected. The 42 days represents twice the maximum incubation period for Ebola (21 days).

This 42-day period starts from the last day that any person in the country had contact with a confirmed or probable Ebola case.

Today, 20 October, Nigeria reached that 42-day mark and is now considered free of Ebola transmission.

WHO commends the Nigerian Government’s strong leadership and effective coordination of the response that included the rapid establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre.

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When the first Ebola case was confirmed in July, health officials immediately repurposed technologies and infrastructures from WHO and other partners to help find cases and track potential chains of transmission of Ebola virus disease.

WHO, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), UNICEF and other partners supported the Nigerian Government with expertise for outbreak investigation, risk assessment, contact tracing and clinical care.

Strong public awareness campaigns, teamed with early engagement of traditional, religious and community leaders, also played a key role in successful containment of this outbreak.

The Nigerian government and staff in the WHO country office are well aware that the country remains vulnerable to another imported case. The surveillance system remains at a level of high alert.

Nigeria has revised its national preparedness and response plan to ensure that the country is well prepared for other imported cases of the disease.


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