— Health authorities say fatality rate at 36%
Five years after containing the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), authorities at the Ministry of Health (MoH) have confirmed an outbreak of Lassa fever across the country.
The situation is so serious that Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Francis Nah Kateh, has warned Liberians to take the necessary preventive measures, “even though this is what we have been taking care of all the while. For the disease to spread to Grand Kru County, gives health authorities the cause for concern.”
According to MoH data, a total of 92 suspected cases between January 1 and August 25, 2019, including 21 deaths, have been reported.
“Of these, 25 cases have been confirmed by RT-PCR (Nimba-9, Bong-10, Grand Bassa-5 and Grand Kru -1), while 9 remain suspected cases,” the release recorded.
The case fatality rate among confirmed cases is 36% (9 deaths out of 25 confirmed cases). Males are mostly affected by the disease (56%) of confirmed cases as compared to females.
The MoH release also said that although Lassa fever is not new to Liberia, it is a deadly viral disease that requires urgent attention. The disease is spread by rodents or rats and through close contact with infected persons.
“We are concerned about the sporadic increase of Lassa fever cases outside the Lassa Belt in Liberia,” meaning Nimba, Bong and Grand Gedeh counties.
“For Lassa fever to affect Grand Kru other than those counties it has previously affected, gives us the fear to raise the alert,” Dr. Kateh told the Daily Observer via mobile phone on Friday.
Henceforth, MoH authorities in collaboration with partners and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), said they are responding to the Lassa fever outbreak in the country.
According to a release issued in Monrovia on August 22, 2019, Bong County Health Team notified NPHIL and MoH of the disease’s outbreak following the confirmation of one case from Suakoko District, Bong County.
The case concerned the death of a 30-year-old male and a Laboratory Technician; a health worker, who previously worked with the Phebe Hospital, and a resident of Phebe Airstrip.
“Our hearts are broken, and we express our heartfelt condolences to members of the bereaved family,” MoH said in a release on Friday, August 30, 2019.
Similarly, on August 24 and 25, 2019, the National Public Health Reference Laboratory confirmed two additional cases of Lassa fever infection in a 46-year old male as well as a 14-year old female, both residents of Suakoko Town, Bong County.
So far, the release said a total of 30 contacts, including 18 health workers, have been line-listed and are being followed up to the extent that two of the contacts have become symptomatic, though one of them have been tested negative.
Additionally, two cases (one contact) remain in isolation and are undergoing Ribavirin (Lassa) treatment, “because this is the 10th confirmed case being detected from Bong County since 2019.”
In response to the outbreak, MoH, NPHIL, World Health Organization (WHO), United States-based Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) and partners are providing technical, financial, and logistical support to the District Response Teams.
“No epidemiological link has been established between these cases. However, there is a likelihood for these cases to be linked based on history of the source of infection,” the release declared.
Health authorities are therefore advising people to “Keep your environment clean; cover your dishes to prevent rats excreting (pu-puing) or urinating (pee-peeing) on them; cover food in tightly-closed containers to prevent rats from playing in food or drinking water; do not eat rats, because you can get the sickness by coming in contact with their blood, ‘pee-pee or pu-pu;’ do not dry food in open places where rats can reach; avoid body contact with infected persons and endemic zone; and visit a health facility immediately when you feel sick.”
Meanwhile, NPHIL, MoH and partners have appealed to the general public to take necessary preventive measures, and kindly report cases of fever (any kind) to the nearest health facility.
“We continue to improve our rapid response teams at county, district and community levels through the County Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), and to provide technical, financial and logistical support to the outbreak,” the release said.