Lassa Fever: don’t panic over rising cases – NCDC

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…As LASUTH resident doctors begin warning strike Jan 28***

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control ( NCDC ) says Nigerians need not panic over the rising cases of Lassa fever because it has initiated measures in response to the disease in the country.

The advice was expressed in a statement on Wednesday by the Chief Executive Officer, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu in Abuja.

Ihekweazu said that in preparation for this year’s emergency phase, NCDC had been providing support to states, including emergency supplies and deployment of Rapid Response Teams (RRT).

He said that the RRTs would work with states in response coordination, contact tracing, case management, risk communication and strengthening infection prevention and control practices.

“Recent epidemiological data shows that Lassa fever usually occurs during the dry season, between January and April.’’

According to him, as at Jan. 13, about 60 confirmed cases were reported in eight states.

”Given this increase in reported cases of Lassa fever, the NCDC has declared this an outbreak and activated an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate the response,” he said.

He said that given the increase in reported cases, the NCDC declared it as an outbreak and activated an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate the response.

Ihekweazu, therefore, advised members of the public to focus on prevention by practising good personal hygiene and proper environmental sanitation.

”Take effective measures by storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from the home, maintaining clean households, and other measures to discourage rodents from entering homes.

”Hand washing should be practised frequently. The public is also advised to avoid bush burning.

”Health care workers are again reminded that Lassa fever presents initially like any other disease-causing febrile illness such as malaria.

”Healthcare providers are advised to practise standard precautions at all times, and to maintain a high index of suspicion.”

Ihekweazu advised that Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) must be applied to all suspected cases of malaria.

”When the RDT is negative, other causes of febrile illness including Lassa fever should be considered. Accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment increases the chances of survival.

”The national guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control, as well as Lassa fever case management have been developed, disseminated to states and are available on the NCDC website for download,’’ he said.

Ihekweazu reinstated Federal Government’s commitment to supporting all States’ public health teams to prevent and respond to public health threats.

In the meantime, resident doctors at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja will begin three days warning strike on January 28, the President, Association Doctors (ARD-LASUTH) president Dr. Fatai Balogun said yesterday.

The strike, is over shortage of house officers and resident doctors.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the association last September went on an indefinite strike to demand the replacement of house officers and resident doctors that left.

Balogun said the strike was suspended following the  management’s promise to replace them.

“This crisis has been recurring over the years without any structured policy put in place to ensure seamless replacement of the exited doctors.

“This, however, creates loopholes in the provision of optimal clinical service delivery.

“It is made to appear that the only language understood by them is an avoidable industrial action.

“All we are asking for is seamless employment of resident doctors and house officers; this should not be a tall order.

“The association is left with no option but to reluctantly resume the suspended strike with a three-day warning strike, which inevitably commences at 8am on Monday, January 28,” Balogun said.

He said shortage of doctors had resulted in long waiting period by patients and inefficient sub-optimal health care service.

The doctors, he said, were being overworked and are falling ill.

“Until our struggle last September, the government did not employ doctors.

“The state government, after the struggle, employed only 55 house officers and promised to employ the remaining 25 last December.

“Up till now, they have not been employed,” Balogun said.

LASUTH Chief Medical Director Prof. Adetokunbo Fabamwo promised to avert the strike.

He said the Head of Service, Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola, would ensure the treatment of the paper work needed in the recruitment of doctors.

“The head of service believes there should be a template for automatic replacement of doctors. He says he will work towards that in order to address the shortage,” Fabamwo said.

The Nation