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How to prevent Lassa fever infection, by Lagos govt

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60 placed under close watch in Rivers Ambode[/caption]About 60 persons have been placed under close watch over the outbreak of the contagious Lassa fever in Rivers State.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Ministry of Health, worried about the outbreak of Lassa fever in some states, has alerted residents to how to protect their lives and those of others around them.

Giving update on the situation in Rivers State, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Theophilous Adangbe, told journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday that 12 medical personnel that attended to the victims, at a public health centre, have been placed under observation.

It would be recalled that a mother and her two-week-old baby died in the state between Wednesday, December 30, 2015 and January 1, 2016 from the disease.

The commissioner said: “We have placed the health personnel who attended to the woman and her baby that died last week under surveillance. We have also placed some secondary contacts that had contacts with the deceased during the naming ceremony of the baby, who died two days after the death of the mother, under surveillance.

“Over 12 of the staff at the primary health care centre who managed and attended to the mother and the baby have been placed under surveillance. The husband of the deceased woman has been asked to draw up a list of those who attended the naming ceremony of the baby and had contact with the mother and child.”

According to Adangbe, when the list being generated by the husband of the deceased woman is completed, over 50 persons are expected to be quarantined. “We already have some of them under observation. We are searching for all those who have had secondary contacts with the health personnel, including family members and friends who had primary and secondary contacts with the victims.”

The commissioner for health, also revealed that the primary health centre where the victims were admitted have been decontaminated.
He said, the victims have already been buried in line with the principles of managing the bodies of those who die from the dreaded disease and other hemorrhage diseases”.

He explained: “For now, we do not have any symptomatic case. What we are doing now is to check the temperature of all those who are currently under observation. Any of them who develop the symptoms of Lassa fever will be immediately quarantined.

Adangbe enjoined members of the public not to panic over the outbreak of the contagious disease, assuring that “we have taken all necessary precautions to prevent the escalation of the disease.”

In a public alert yesterday, the Lagos State Ministry of Health noted that Lassa fever is caused by infection with the Lassa virus, which is spread by rats that live in large numbers in West, Central, and East Africa. They carry the virus in their urine and faeces and live in homes and areas where food is stored.

According to the statement, the disease can be contacted by:

*Ingestion of foods and drinks contaminated by the saliva, urine and faeces of infected rats;
*Catching and preparing infected rats as food;
*Inhaling tiny particles in the air contaminated with infected rat urine or droppings; and
*Direct contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids, through mucous membranes, like eyes, nose, or mouth.

The ministry said those at the highest risk include health workers, families and friends of an infected person in the course of feeding, holding and caring for them.

According to the statement, early symptoms of the disease which occur within three weeks of coming in contact with the virus include fever, headache, chills, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, backache, and joint pains. Late symptoms include bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose, bleeding from the mouth and rectum, eye swelling, swelling of the genitals and rashes all over the body that often contain blood. It could progress to coma, shock and death.

The ministry said people should suspect Lassa fever in persons who present above symptoms with a positive history of being in contact with a suspected or infected person or health worker who had treated either suspected or confirmed infected person.

The statement, however, said Lassa fever can be treated. Antiviral drugs have been used successfully to treat Lassa fever. The earlier a person presents the cases, the better the outcome of treatment.

For prevention and control of Lassa fever, the Lagos ministry urged general public to:

*Avoid contact between rats and human beings;
*Observe good personal hygiene, including hand washing with soap and running water regularly; and
*Dispose of your waste properly and clean the environment so that rats are not attracted.



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