How much reform Nigeria's health sector needs is usually seen when there are cases of a disease that breaks out suddenly. 

Lassa Fever that states are battling with is one of such diseases that open how urgent these reforms must come to ensure that the nation's health sector is able to withstand unforeseen circumstances like this. 

Since the beginning of 2018, 107 suspected Lassa fever cases have been recorded in 10 states - Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Kogi, Imo and Lagos States.

As at January 21, the total number of confirmed cases is 61, with 16 deaths recorded.

Ten healthcare workers have been infected in four states (Ebonyi – 7, Nasarawa – 1, Kogi – 1 and Benue – 1) with three deaths in Ebonyi. 

To check increasing cases, a public health expert, Dr. Toni Iken, on Tuesday urged policy makers at all levels of government to be proactive in the fight against Lassa fever.

Iken, who is the Programme Coordinator, Health Development Initiative, Ibadan, made the plea in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria.

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Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever and infectious disease and its frequency in occurence is increasing in different parts of Nigeria.

He said: “Policy makers must always envisage circumstances and make provision for the unseen and unexpected when it comes to infectious diseases like Lassa fever in order to prevent its frequent recurrence.

“There is need to provide basic amenities, including easy access to quality healthcare, availability of potable water and clean environment".

The public health expert also advised healthcare workers to have a high index of suspicion for Lassa fever in order to curb the frequent outbreak in Nigeria.

Symptoms, Risk And Prevention

One other thing he said healthcare could do is to adopt standard infection control measures while treating patients regardless of presumed diagnosis.

“Suspected cases of Lassa fever should be immediately isolated and reported to the appropriate authorities for treatment,” she further emphasised. 

Iken identified high fever, sore throat, conjunctivitis, vomiting, diarrhea, back pain, cough, bleeding through body openings and general body weakness as some symptoms of Lassa fever.

She said that people living in dirty environment and come in contact with the urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats or persons were at risk of contracting Lassa fever.

“Although, currently there is no vaccine against Lassa fever, it can be prevented through practising of good personal hygiene and proper environmental sanitation.

“Preventing an epidemic should be a collective responsibility of all members of the public.

Also Read: Medical Doctor Tested Positive To Lassa Fever In Kogi

“Effective measures must be taken to control rodents; there must be proper storage of food in rodent-proof containers and high level of personal and environmental hygiene must be maintained.

“Hand washing should also be practised frequently,” she said.

Iken also called for massive public sensitisation on the mode of transmission of Lassa fever virus and regular hospital training programmes for health workers.

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