Workshop Seeks New Ways of Controlling Lassa Fever In Nigeria

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WHO Lassa fever monitoring team

Prioritises infection prevention and control among health workers

By Bukola Afeni

The World Health Organisation and the Government of Nigeria are to share expertise and knowledge on Lassa fever control, with the aim of reducing case fatalities.

This was the crux of the conversation at the National Training Workshop on Case Management for Lassa Fever held n Abuja on Wednesday.

At the workshop, the WHO Nigeria Country Representative, Dr Walter Mulombo noted that Lassa fever has been a serious problem in Nigeria for the past 15 years.

Speaking on the essence of their participation at the workshop, Mulombo said, “We are here to learn more on case management and control for the benefit of Nigerians, to reduce the rate of mortality of Lassa fever patients, and also bring all health workers to speed on Lassa fever management with its drugs and timeliness of the case.”

He said the workshop will address the issue of case management and the way people are being treated, the medicine they are given and the timelines of the treatment with a view to entrenching best practices in Lassa fever treatment to the rest of Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr Ehanire Osagie on his part reiterated the government’s commitment to stepping up diagnosis of Lassa Fever.

He also revealed that genomic sequencing would be actively deployed in monitoring the virus and its circulation within the country.

According to the Minister this has necessitated heightened attention to infection prevention and control measures among healthcare workers (HCWs) to reduce rates of infection within healthcare facilities.

“The Federal Ministry of Health is committed to ensuring decline in Case fatality rate (CFR) from the 2021 figure of 20.5% to 19.8% in 2022, which continues until Lassa fever ceases to become a public health threat in Nigeria.”

“The recent COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we cannot afford to undermine any effort put into addressing and reducing high-risk viral pathogens like Lassa fever, as not only can they mutate and pose a new threat, but globalization can quickly lead to the spread of the disease to non-endemic countries.” He added.

Lassa fever, an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus exists in some West African countries but endemic in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo and Nigeria.

Over the last 5 years, Nigeria has witnessed a large increase of confirmed cases of Lassa fever including among healthcare workers.

Giving insight on how to curb this, the Minister said, “We need to build capacities to effectively manage such cases when they arise. Our commitment is also evident in our emphasis on infection prevention and control measures among healthcare workers (HCWs) to reduce rates of infection within healthcare facilities.

“Now we want to build capacity in case management because we know that doing so will go a long way in reducing mortality in these patients. This training is part of the government’s effort to further reduce mortality from Lassa fever.”

The Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH), in Irrua, Edo State in Southsouth Nigeria is Nigeria’s prime facility for the treatment and management of haemorrhagic fevers, like Lassa.

The Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Prof. Sylvanus Okogbenin noted that the institution is working effectively with the Federal Ministry of Health to address the Lassa Fever scourge in the country.

“This is part of our overall emergency preparedness to build critical manpower for the response to Lassa fever. We want to reduce mortality in Lassa Fever patients and build capacity for case management.” He added.

Prof Okogbenin said that it is expected that participants at the workshop should not only join in the case management but also in research efforts aimed at developing new therapeutic options and vaccine products.

 

 

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