The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has attributed the recurrent outbreak of Lassa fever and other infectious diseases in the country to the deplorable state of health care facilities and service delivery.
In a statement jointly signed by the NMA president and secretary general, Dr. Francis Faduyile and Dr. Olumuyiwa Odusote respectively, the NMA said due to the terrible state of the nation’s health system, there would continue to be an abysmally low level of preparedness in handling diseases.
According to the body, unless government at all levels wake up to their responsibilities of increasing budgetary allocations to the health sector and most importantly, ensure speedy and full implementation of the National Health Act (NHA), it would be hard to achieve the desired results.
While appealing to health authorities to prioritise capacity building of healthcare professionals on standard infection prevention and control measures, the NMA urged them to ensure basic disinfectants and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment in healthcare facilities were adequately provided.
The statement reads in part: “The current epidemic, like other outbreaks, is a reflection of the abysmally low level of preparedness in handling infectious diseases especially viral hemorrhagic fever at all levels of healthcare delivery. The frequency of the outbreaks also gives credence to the deplorable state of healthcare delivery in Nigeria.
“The Nigerian Medical Association therefore call on the Government and all stakeholders to join hands together to ensure the speedy and full implementation of the National Health Act 2014, increase the budgetary allocation to the health sector to 15% of the annual budget in line with the minimum benchmark recommended by the Abuja Declaration of 2001. All must also be committed to the revamping of the primary healthcare system.
“The NMA while commiserating with its Kano branch and families of Nigerians who died during the current outbreak, calls on religious, corporate and Non Governmental Organisations to work closely with the Government and its Association in intensifying ongoing public enlightenment campaign in order to ensure all Nigerians especially those at the rural areas, were educated on preventive strategies and the need to access prompt health care.
The Association further mandated all healthcare professionals to have high index of suspicion, basic infection prevention and control measures especially appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and to take extra precaution whenever a patient lassa fever symptoms especially the wet symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding.
“Healthcare practitioners should be cautious of the display of heroism especially in the absence of the basics required for care especially appropriate Personal Protective Equipment or in case of lack of the needed skill. This is pivotal to prevent transmission or break the chain of transmission in healthcare facility setting and prevent avoidable deaths.
“It is also important to strengthen institutional infection prevention and control measures and preparedness with periodic capacity building, and build more diagnostic and treatment centers across the country in order to effectively combat this dreaded virus,” the statement added.
So far, about 29 people from across 15 states including two doctors at the Amino Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano and a pregnant woman have died.
The 15 states affected in the scourge are Abia, Bauchi, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Kaduna, Kano, Kogi, Ogun Ondo, Plateau, Rivers and Taraba with Ogun State recording 16 deaths, the highest number of Lassa fever deaths in the recent outbreak.
Lassa fever is a Viral Hemorrhagic Disease caused by the Lassa fever Virus found in rodents.
The virus is transmitted primarily through contact with rodents’ excreta and blood or consumption of contaminated food items and can also be spread through direct or indirect contact with the body fluid of infected individuals.
The NMA has advised that anyone with symptoms of fever, headache, general body weakness, malaise, muscle pain, redness of the eyes, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, chest pain, unexplained bleeding from the mouth, nose, anus, other routes and into the skin and convulsion, should visit the nearest health facility.