An Abuja based Public Health Expert, Dr Gabriel Adakole, has tasked the Federal Government on sensitisation of rural dwellers on the resurgence of Lassa fever and ways of curbing its spread.
Adakole spoke to newsmen, on Friday in Abuja, against the backdrop of the outbreak of the deadly disease in some parts of the country.
He stressed that proactive measures, rather than curative, must be taken to check its spread.
According to him, there is an urgent need for government to educate people in high-risk areas about ways to eradicate or reduce the populations of rodents in their homes.
“Such a step will aid in the control and prevention of Lassa fever,” he maintained.
Adakole said that the current awareness, which was mostly on the social media, was not getting to people in the rural areas.
He noted that past outbreaks mainly hit rural areas with just a few cases detected in cities.
According to the health expert, lack of awareness on outbreaks in the rural areas is a major factor that contributes to undetected spread of diseases.
He urged the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and other relevant agencies to reach out to Nigerians in the rural areas to avoid the entrenchment of the virus in such places.
He called on government to also ensure the development of more rapid diagnostic tests and to increase its availability across the nation.
Speaking further on ways to prevent the disease, he said that the prevention of Lassa fever relied greatly on promoting good environmental hygiene to discourage rodents from entering homes.
According to him, other effective measures include storing grains and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, disposing of garbage far from the home and maintaining clean environments.
“Trapping in and around homes can help reduce rodent populations, however, the wide distribution of Mastomys in Nigeria and also in Africa, makes complete control of this rodent reservoir impractical,” he said.
According to him, the primary transmission of the Lassa virus from its host to humans can also be prevented by avoiding contact with Mastomys rodents, especially in the geographic regions where outbreaks occur.
He advised health care givers of patients with Lassa fever to take preventive measures in making contact with patients’ secretions called VHF, isolation precautions or barrier nursing methods.
“Transmission of the disease through person-to-person contact, or nosocomial routes could be avoided by taking such precautions,” he advised.
Adakole noted that such precautions included wearing protective clothing such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles.
He added that using infection control measures, such as complete equipment sterilisation and isolating infected patients from contact with unprotected persons until the disease had run its course was also key.
Newsmen recall that the NCDC had confirmed the increase in the number of Lassa fever cases reported in the country, since the beginning of the year.
Between Jan.1 and Jan. 19, a total of 398 suspected cases, leading to 24 deaths, were reported from many states across the country,.
According to the weekly situation report for week three, (January 1 to 19), in its press release, 163 cases of the disease have so far been confirmed in nine states with 24 deaths recorded.
The number of new confirmed cases in week three increased from 64 to 81, mainly in six states, namely, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Taraba, Plateau and Bauchi.
“In the week under review, nine states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 32 local government areas,” the report highlighted.
According to NCDC, the predominant age-group affected, is 11-40 years and the male to female ratio for confirmed cases is 1:1.