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Anxiety as Lassa fever kills 2 in Lagos, 100 under surveillance

Lassa fever is back in the country as two people have died of the disease with 100 others under surveillance in Lagos state.

The two patients died at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba, within few days of admission where they were being treated.

Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, confirmed the deaths yesterday in a statement.

Bode explained: “Each of these two patients presented very late and died in spite of efforts to salvage them.

The first was a 39-year old pregnant lady with bleeding disorder who died after a stillbirth. Post-mortem examination had been conducted before her Lassa Fever status was eventually suspected and confirmed.”

According to him, no less than 100 different hospital workers exposed to this index case are currently being monitored.

“A resident doctor from the Department of Anatomic and Molecular Pathology who took part in the autopsy was later confirmed with the disease and is currently on admission and responding well to treatment at the Isolation”, he said.

He added that top management staff had spoken with the doctor and other affected staff to boost their morale and assure them of the hospital’s full support

He enjoined all LUTH workers to maintain a heightened level of alert in the wake of this new outbreak and observe universal precautions in handling all suspected cases of this viral hemorrhagic fever.

Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF), according to experts, is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. Many of those infected by the virus do not develop symptoms. When symptoms occur they typically include fever, weakness, headaches, vomiting, and muscle pains.

“LUTH has always worked closely with officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Health in handling a number of diseases of public importance such as rabies, cholera, Lassa fever and the recent diarrhoea disease at the Queen’s College”, Bode said.

Bode revealed that both the Lagos State Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Health have responded swiftly to contain this present Lassa fever outbreak by mobilising human and material resources to trace the sources and extent of the disease, follow up on potential contacts, identify early and test suspected cases.

He further noted : “There are adequate materials for containment of the disease while drugs have been made available to treat anyone confirmed with the disease. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Nigeria has also been contacted. Two other suspected cases from Lagos state are also presently admitted and quarantined while undergoing confirmatory laboratory tests.”

Prevention of Lassa fever relies on promoting good “community hygiene” to discourage rodents from entering homes. Effective measures include storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from the home, maintaining clean households.

In healthcare settings, prevention is by standard precautions where all blood and body fluids are considered potentially infectious. Standard precautions are applied to all patients at all times and in all health care settings. These include hand hygiene, use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), waste disposal, cleaning and disinfection of medical equipment and environment, safe injection practices.

In case of any suspected case of Lassa fever, notify the response team in LUTH on 08058019466, 08058744780, 07035521015 and 08023299445.

Meanwhile, the Lagos state epidemiology unit has put out a notice to all heads of health departments in Ikorodu local government area over the corpse of a victim released from LUTH

LUTH management had reportedly released the corpse to the family before realising that the victim died from hemorrhagic fever.

The unit has directed health officials to list all contacts with the body from the hospital to a yet-to-be known address at Imota, Ikorodu.

The family had collected the corpse for burial, but the unit directed the officials to prevent the body from being buried in Imota.

This is in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

“All HODs in lkorodu LGA and the 5 LCDAs are hereby alerted to swing into immediate action to line list all contacts with the body from the hospital to their destination,” read a notice issued to the health officials.

“They should also prevent the body from being buried at home. The address would be posted as soon as it is confirmed. Meanwhile, all officers in lmota are by this notice directed to mount surveillance in lmota town to know where a woman died in LUTH today.

“In addition, we should all note that on NO account should a patient suspected to have any of the viral hemorrhagic fevers be moved or transferred from where he/she is once that diagnosis is being entertained. The officer there should contact his superiors locally plus the state epidemiology unit at Alausa and receive clear instructions on what to do next.

“Moving or transferring the suspect will only ignorantly expose more people and create unnecessary, irrational panic. Detain the patient there and make the call. We have two Lassa fever suspects admitted at Mainland Hospital, Yaba.”

Angela Onwuzoo

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