…Liberia says “no need to panic”
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is teaming up with national and international health agencies to tackle what appears to be the largest outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria, as reported by the Voice of America (VOA).
The latest figures show 1,081 suspected cases of the disease, including 90 deaths so far. But in the wake of the report, health authorities in Liberia say they are prepared and capable of defeating any outbreak, adding that: “Our disease surveillance officers at each of our entry points are active on duty.”
Sorbor George, the communications director of the Ministry of Health, told the Daily Observer via mobile phone last night that although the ministry was not fully aware of the outbreak in Nigeria, nonetheless Liberia’s health authorities have learned enough lessons from Ebola, and are therefore prepared to deal with any eventuality in the sector.
“Unless I inquire from health authorities, I’m very sure the ministry is making a couple of interventions to prevent anything around here,” George said.
The WHO said yesterday that 317 of more than 1,000 suspected cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed during the past eight weeks. It says the number is more than the 305 cases reported all of last year, making the latest as the biggest Lassa fever outbreak to date.
While the disease is present in 17 Nigerian states, the WHO reports it is largely concentrated in the three southern states of Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi.
Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria, as it is in a number of West African states.
WHO spokesman Tarek Jasarevic says investigations have been undertaken to find out why this year’s outbreak is so extensive.
“The WHO is helping to coordinate health actors and is joining rapid risk assessment teams traveling to hot spots to investigate the outbreak.
“The organization is supporting the Lassa fever Emergency Operations Center that is led by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control to revise the Lassa fever Incident Action Plan, and to strengthen surveillance, infection prevention control and treatment, as well as better coordination and conducting Lassa fever research and development,” Jasarevic told the VOA.
Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic (blood) illness that occurs in West Africa. The virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent (rats) urine or feces.
Jasarevic told VOA the virus also can be spread between humans.
“Once a person is infected, it can infect other people just like Ebola was through bodily fluidS.
“So mainly, that would be the healthcare workers who are not properly trained and who are not properly equipped, who may then get infected inside the healthcare facilities,” Jasarevic said.
The incubation period of Lassa fever ranges from six to 21 days. The WHO says the best way to prevent the disease is by promoting good community hygiene to discourage rodents that spread the disease from entering homes.
Besides storing grain and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, the WHO suggests keeping cats in the home is a good idea.