In an effort to curtail the reported outbreak of lassa fever in some states, the federal government has released some quantities of ribavirin, the specific antiviral drug for the fever for prompt and adequate treatment of affected persons.
It also ordered the deployment of rapid response teams from the Ministry of Health to all the affected states to assist in investigating and verifying the cases and tracing of contacts.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, who dropped the hint, in a statement he issued, in Abuja, on Wednesday, said that in the last six weeks, Nigeria had been experiencing lassa fever (LF) outbreak which had, so far, affected eight states – Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo and Oyo.
Putting the total number of suspected cases so far reported to 76 with 35 deaths, and a case fatality rate (CFR) of 46%, the minister said the country’s laboratories have confirmed14 cases.
He maintained that the first case of the current outbreak was reported from Bauchi in November, 2015, followed by cases reported by Kano State, and subsequently the other states that were affected.
Lassa fever he said is an acute febrile illness, with bleeding and death in severe cases, caused by the Lassa fever virus with an incubation period of 6-21 days.
He said about 80% of human infections are asymptomatic while the remaining cases have severe multi-system disease, where the virus affects several organs in the body, such as the liver, spleen and kidneys.
The onset of the disease, the minister said is usually gradual, starting with fever, general weakness, and malaise followed by headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, and bleeding from mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract, and low blood pressure.
According to the minister, the reservoir or host of the Lassa virus is the “multi-mammate rat” called Mastomys natalensis which has many breasts and lives in the bush and peri-residential areas.