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Published On: Thu, Feb 1st, 2018

Senate probes Health Minister over spread of Lassa fever in 14 states

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By Christiana Ekpa and Ikechukwu Okaforadi

Following the outbreak of Lassa fever presently ravaging the country, which has spread to fourteen states of the Federation, the Senate Thursday mandated its committees on Health (Secondary & Tertiary) and Primary Health Care & Communicable Diseases, to investigate steps taken by the Ministry of Health to curb the spread of the disease.

The Upper Chamber equally urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to quickly visit the center in Irrua Specialist Hospital for on the spot assessment, with a view of providing relief materials to the victims.

The affected states are Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Imo, Kogi,  Bauchi, Anambra, Benue, Federal capital Teritory, Abia, Ekiti and Delta.

The outbreak of the disease which was first recorded on the 5th of January, 2018, has risen to 363 as against the lesser number of cases recorded in previous years.

Out of the 363 cases, 81 persons have tested positive, while 44 persons have been admitted at the Institute of Lassa Fever Research  and Control, Irrua Teaching Hospital, Edo State. About 11 deaths have been recorded, of which 3 are health workers.

Federal Government through the Ministry of Health to urgently  provide the Center  all necessary equipment to enable it meet its responsibilities to Nigerians seeking medical care at the center;

This followed a motion sponsored by Senator Clifford Ordia from Edo State on Thursday.

It also urged the Ministry of Information and National Orientation to engage in the  sensitisation and education of the public on the prevention, control and treatment of Lassa fever.

Quoting the World Health Organization, Ordia said the fever is an acute viral heamorrhagic illness of 2 to 21 days duration that occurs in West Africa and is transmitted to human through contact with or exposure to food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces.

He said person to person infection and laboratory transmission can also occur particularly in hospitals lacking adequate infection prevention and control equipments.

He said: “The institute is the only centre in Nigeria known for excellence in the management, control and treatment of Lassa fever in Nigeria. The centre received samples from all states referred above for the purpose of examination and treatment.

“The centre also engages in the training of Health care workers, i.e. Doctors, Nurses and Laboratory Technologists on the management of Lassa fever in Nigeria. Last year alone, the centre trained 67 health workers from 15 states with reported cases of the outbreak.

“The centre is presently overwhelmed by the number of samples received, including patients on admission which has stretched the bed space, beddings, Dialysis Machine,  X-Ray equipment, Ultra Sound Scan, ECG Machine, Ventilators monitors, human and financial resources beyond limit.”

“The centre is confronted with the challenges of Inadequate protective instruments for the health workers engaged in the management of  victims; inadequate drugs, i.e Ribarvirin for patient treatment; inadequate disinfectants and other infection prevention and control consumables; and lack of operational vehicles, public address system and health education materials for contact tracing and community sensitisation,” he added.

Lawmakers resolved to make more funds available for the centre in the 2018 budget. It also urged the Federal Government to set up centres in different parts of the country.

The Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, said health care should be one of the major responsibilities of government. “If this matter is not addressed, we will be giving out our responsibilities. And to know that this issue has been going on for years is worrisome.

“We need to give this issue the attention it needs. We have enough medical doctors. We need to provide the needed equipments they need to work with. I believe that the committee will help us address the issue. We cannot allow this to continue to spread,” he said.



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