NCDC says 'emergency phase' of worst Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria is over

The Lassa fever case count has now dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency.

At least one case of Lassa fever has been recorded in 27 states in Nigeria in 2020 [Guardian]

The agency announced in a statement on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 that this was as a result of a steady decline in cases below the emergency threshold, and an epidemiological review carried out with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by rodents and is endemic in West African countries.

According to the most recent situation report by the NCDC with six cases on record between April 13 and April 19, Nigeria has witnessed a steady decline in the number of new cases since 115 cases were recorded between February 10 and February 16.

It was also the second consecutive week that no Lassa fever death was recorded since one was recorded between March 23 and March 29.

Between January 1 and April 19, Nigeria recorded a total of 979 cases and 188 deaths, an outbreak that the Director-General of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, described recently as the largest Lassa fever outbreak ever reported in any country, 'anywhere in the world'.

The NCDC said in Tuesday's statement that the Lassa fever case count has now dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency.

The agency noted that a large epidemiological study being implemented in Nigeria and other West African countries is expected to contribute to Lassa fever vaccine development.

The study is being done in collaboration with the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations(CEPI).

"Despite the end of the emergency phase of this outbreak, the NCDC will continue to coordinate the national multisectoral Lassa fever Technical Working Group (TWG).

"This TWG ensures continuous monitoring of cases, as well as strengthening of Lassa fever surveillance, diagnostic, treatment and other response activities across all levels in Nigeria," the agency said.

Ihekweazu said he expects Nigeria to continue to record Lassa fever cases even though the country is about to pass its usual January to April peak period.

"The NCDC remains committed to ensuring a continuous decline in the number of people who die from Lassa fever, by early detection and appropriate treatment," he said.

At least one case of Lassa fever has been detected in 27 states across 127 local government areas across the country. The predominant age-group affected is 21-30 years.

Edo has recorded the highest number of cases with 320, followed by Ondo (313), Ebonyi (73), and Taraba (56).

Ondo has recorded the highest number of deaths with 44, followed by Edo with 39, Taraba with 21, and Ebonyi with 16.

Other states affected are Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Delta, Enugu, FCT, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, and Sokoto.

Lagos, Ogun, Osun, and Oyo have recorded confirmed cases, but zero deaths during the course of the year.

Lassa fever infection can happen through contact with excreta or urine of rodents; contact with a probable or confirmed Lassa fever case within a period of 21 days of onset of symptoms; or any person with inexplicable bleeding/hemorrhagia.

Symptoms of Lassa fever include malaise, fever, headache, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, myalgia, chest pain, and hearing loss.

The NCDC urged Nigerias to practice good personal hygiene, and keep the environment clean and rodent free to prevent the spread of Lassa fever.

The agency also expressed its appreciation for health workers dealing with the outbreak, and urged them to continue to practice standard precautions at all times.

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