A public health expert, Dr Toni Iken, has called on policy makers at all levels of government to be proactive in the fight against Lassa fever.
Iken, the Programme Coordinator, Health Development Initiative, Ibadan, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Ibadan.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever and infectious disease which occurs frequently in different parts of the country.
He said: “Policy makers must always envisage circumstances and make provision for the unseen and unexpected when it comes to infectious diseases like Lassa fever in order to prevent its frequent recurrence.
“There is need to provide basic amenities including easy access to quality healthcare, availability of potable water and clean environment,” she said.
The public health expert also advised healthcare workers to have a high index of suspicion for Lassa fever in order to curb the frequent outbreak in Nigeria.
She also urged healthcare workers to adopt standard infection control measures while treating patients regardless of presumed diagnosis.
“Suspected cases of Lassa fever should be immediately isolated and reported to the appropriate authorities for treatment,” she said.
Iken identified high fever, sore throat, conjunctivitis, vomiting, diarrhea, back pain, cough, bleeding through body openings and general body weakness as some symptoms of Lassa fever.
She said that people living in dirty environment and come in contact with the urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats or persons were at risk of contracting Lassa fever.
“Although, currently there is no vaccine against Lassa fever, it can be prevented through practising of good personal hygiene and proper environmental sanitation.
“Preventing an epidemic should be a collective responsibility of all members of the public.
“Effective measures must be taken to control rodents; there must be proper storage of food in rodent-proof containers and high level of personal and environmental hygiene must be maintained.
“Hand washing should also be practised frequently,” she said.
Iken also called for massive public sensitisation on the mode of transmission of Lassa fever virus and regular hospital training programmes for health workers.
Since the beginning of 2018, a total number of 107 suspected Lassa fever cases have been recorded in 10 states: Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Kogi, Imo and Lagos States.
As at Jan. 21, the total number of confirmed cases is 61, with 16 deaths recorded. Ten healthcare workers have been infected in four states (Ebonyi – 7, Nasarawa – 1, Kogi – 1 and Benue – 1) with three deaths in Ebonyi. (NAN)