The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has issued a Lassa fever advisory for health workers in Nigeria.
The advisory comes at a time when the country is witnessing multiple outbreaks of Lassa fever.
According to the disease control agency, “Lassa fever remains a major public health challenge in West Africa with Nigeria bearing the highest-burden.”
The centre added that Lassa fever which is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever is caused by the Lassa virus.
“The natural reservoir for the virus is the Mastomys natalensis rodent (commonly known as the multimammate rat) but other rodents have also been identified as carriers of the virus”, the NCDC explained.
The advisory read, “Lassa fever initially presents like any other febrile illness such as malaria. Its symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pains, chest pain, and in severe cases, unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth and other body openings.
“The time between infection and appearance of symptoms of the disease is three to 21 days. Early diagnosis and treatment increase the chances of survival.
“Healthcare workers are most at risk of person-to-person transmission of Lassa fever especially: Doctors, nurses, and other health workers providing direct patient care with poor adherence to standard precautions and infection prevention and control measures; hospital staff who clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces, materials and supplies without adequate protective gear; laboratory staff who handle blood samples of suspected Lassa fever patients without appropriate precautions; medical or support staff who prepare and or handle dead bodies of infected patients without appropriate precautions.”
The centre, however, advised health workers to “practice standard precautions always while handling patients and body fluids i.e., always wear Personal Protective Equipment irrespective of patient’s provisional diagnosis; maintain a high index of suspicion for Lassa fever i.e., be vigilant and look out for symptoms of Lassa fever, not all fevers are malaria.”
It noted, “Any febrile illness that has not responded to use of anti-malaria or antibiotics after 48 hours should raise an index of suspicion of Lassa fever”.
Meanwhile, the National Biotechnology Development Agency has identified three drugs to be repositioned and repurposed for the treatment and eradication of Lassa fever.
Director-General of NABDA, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Abuja.
Mustapha said scientists at the Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics Department of the agency, led by its Director, Prof Oyekanmi Nash, in collaboration with other researchers spearheaded the research.
“This is NABDA’s contribution towards finding a lasting solution to Lassa fever disease in Nigeria. Diseases are increasing on a yearly basis. So, NABDA has repositioned and repurposed three candidate drugs for the treatment of Lassa fever,’’ he said.
He expressed optimism that the drugs would address the challenges faced in treating patients diagnosed with Lassa fever ailment.
Prof. Oyekanmi Nash, Director of Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics of the NABDA, noted that Lassa fever is a ravishing disease peculiar to Nigeria and West Africa.