Published On: Fri, Feb 14th, 2020

Coronavirus, Lassa fever: FG offers N36m to scientist who finds cure

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As Lassa fever death toll hits 70 -NCDC

By Ese Awhotu AND Femi Oyelola, Kaduna

The Federal Government has dangled a whopping sum of N36million to any Nigerian scientist who develops a vaccine to stem the scourge of Corona Virus disease (COVID-19) currently ravaging some parts of the world.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu who announced this further said that the prize sum also goes to whoever develops the vaccine for Lassa fever virus whose cases are reported in some states in the country.
The Minister spoke at the send-forth for a retiring Director of Chemical Technology Department of the Ministry, Engr. Akinyemi Oyefeso in the Ministry in Abuja on Thursday.
This was contained in a statement from Abdulganiyu Aminu, Head(Press and PR) Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, sent to Peoples Daily online yesterday in Abuja
Dr. Onu further challenged Nigerian inventors, innovators and scientists to find a cure for various diseases that are proving intractable, adding that Nigeria is well-endowed with both human and material resources to surmount them.
He further said that Nigerian Scientists are highly rated and expressed optimism that in no distant time, the country will make key contributions in so many areas of Science and Technology to the delight of the entire world.
Dr. Onu commended the celebrant, Engr. Akinyemi Oyefeso, for his various innovations when he held forth as a Director in the Ministry. “We will need your expertise and service in future, because you have so much to offer the nation”, he added.
He advised the entire staff and management of the Ministry to rise up to the challenge of a knowledge- based economy being stridently pursued by the present administration.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has disclosed that following the outbreak of Lassa fever, 472 cases with 70 deaths have been recorded in 92 local governments areas of 26 states in Nigeria between January and February 9th, 2020.
The Assistant Director Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Department of the NCDC Dr.Kola Jinaidu who made the disclosure further disclosed that 14 health workers were also affected within the period under review.
Dr Jinaidu was speaking as the guest speaker during a one -day sensitization seminar organized by Great Helping Hands Foundation in partnership with Oma Life Rescue Foundation (OLRF) in Kaduna with the topic “ Global threats of Corona and Lassa virus, awareness, causes and prevention.”
According to him, Lassa fever symptoms is more difficult to identify particularly in non epidemic period. Some of the symptoms he said include fatigue, general weakness, fever, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhoea, face swelling, low blood pressure among others.
He informed that Lassa fever can be transmitted through direct contact with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats, contact with objects, household items and surfaces or eating food contaminated with urine, fasces, saliva or blood of infected rats.
Dr Jinaidu further said person to person transmission by contact with blood, urine, faeces, vomitus and other body fluids of an infected person can occur.
He, however, said early treatment and diagnosis increases the chances of survival.
Preventive measures against Lassa fever he stated include effective personal hygiene e.g frequent hand washing practices, use of hand sanitizers, proper environmental sanitation, rodent control measure to include covering of dustbin, avoiding bush burning, blocking of all holes at home and work environment and storage of foodstuffs in rat proof containers.
Dr. Jinaidu called on whoever witnesses any of the symptoms to avoid any form of self-medication but to visit the nearest health facility and receive IV Ribavin and other supportive treatment.
On Corona virus, he said emphatically and contrary to insinuations that cplaces virus is not in Africa, but hundreds of thousands affected with over 1000 deaths recorded in place like China.
Earlier, Kaduna State Commissioner of health represented by the director public health informed that Lassa fever treatment in the state is for free stressing that Lassa fever is no longer an epidermic but has become endemic, adding that the state already has in place a rapid response team.
In their respective speeches earlier, the Chief Executive Officer of Great helping hands Pastor and Mrs Shola Oweye and the MD/CEO Oma Life Rescue Foundation Dr (Mrs) Omanibe Ani said both foundations are committed towards touching the lives of people positively hence the decision to put the serminar together for people to be aware of the global threats and take precautive measures.
Other NGOs in attendance include Nachen sight initiative, Mohammed Abdul-one foundation and Elpizo humanitarian foundation.

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