Death in Benue communities: Strange disease not Lassa fever, says minister

…47 confirmed deaths, 365 confirmed cases from 19 states

Concerning the strange disease that has been causing deaths in some communities in Benue State, the Federal Government has cleared the air on the incident saying it is Lassa fever.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanireon Friday in Abuja explained that tests were carried out to ascertain if the disease had any link with Lassa fever, but it was negative.

He however, said investigations are still ongoing to ascertain the nature of the disease and the cause.

He linked the cause of the disease to fishermen using chemicals to kill fishes, adding that consumption of these fishes could have triggered the series of deaths.

He therefore, advised farmers to desist from using chemicals to fish as they are poisonous not only to the fishes, but also to anyone who consumes the fish.

The ailment, which cure and treatment are yet to be discovered by Nigeria’s health authorities, broke out as the country battles the Lassa fever scourge and coronavirus.

On Lassa fever, according to the situation report for the fifth week by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), there are 104 new confirmed cases and additional 6 deaths from 15 states – Ondo, Edo, Ebonyi, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Delta, Taraba, Plateau, Bauchi, FCT, Gombe, Enugu, Anambra, and Kebbi. This puts the total number of confirmed cases and deaths at 365 and 47 respectively.

“The number of deaths has decreased compared to the previous week, with six (6) deaths reported in week 05. Cumulatively from week 1 to week 05, 2020, 47 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate
(CFR) of 12.9% which is lower than the CFR for the same period in 2019 (17.7%).

“In total for 2020, 23 states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 74 Local Government Areas. Of all confirmed cases, 76% are from Edo (35%), Ondo (35%) and Ebonyi (6%) states. The predominant age-group affected is 21-30 years.

“The number of suspected cases has significantly increased compared to that reported for the same period in 2019. One new Health Care Worker was affected in Delta state in the reporting week 05”.

Concerning response activities, the NCDC said The National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has been activated to coordinate response activities across states. Of the states with confirmed cases, eight of them have activated state level EOCs. Also, Rapid Response Teams have been deployed from NCDC to support response activities in five states.

“State Public Health Emergency Operations Centre have been activated in affected states, and the five molecular laboratories for Lassa fever testing in the NCDC network are working full capacity to ensure that all samples are tested and results provided within the shortest turnaround time.

“NCDC is working to support every state in Nigeria to identify one treatment centre, while supporting existing ones with care, treatment and IPC commodities. Risk communications and community engagement activities have been scaled up across states using television, radio, print, social media and other strategies,” it said.

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