WHO confirms drop in Lassa fever cases, deaths in Nigeria
• ‘Infections declined from 70 by Feb. 18 to five by April 15’
• UN agency cautions on declining trend
• Says data shows high transmission period has not passed
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed steady decline in Lassa fever cases and deaths from 70 by February 18, 2018 to five by April 15, 2018.The WHO, yesterday, said: “… From the beginning of the outbreak in January 1, 2018 to the week ending February 18, 2018, the number of weekly reported Lassa fever cases increased from 10 to 70. From late-February to early March, there has been a downward trend in the weekly reported number of Lassa fever cases with less than 20 cases reported each week in March and only five new cases reported in the week ending April 15, 2018.”
The United Nations (UN) apex health body, however, said: “…This declining trend needs to be interpreted with caution as historical data shows that the high transmission period has not passed. The surveillance system has recently been strengthened. This is the largest outbreak of Lassa fever ever reported in Nigeria.
“The infection of 27 health care workers highlights the crucial need to strengthen infection prevention and control practices in all health care setting for all patients, regardless of their presumed diagnosis.
“The reporting of confirmed cases in different parts of the country and at borders with neighbouring countries indicate a risk of possible spread nationally and to neighbouring countries. An overall moderate level of risk remains at the regional level. Public health actions should be focused on enhancing ongoing activities, including surveillance, contact tracing, laboratory testing and case management.”
According to the WHO report, Lassa fever case management centres are operational in three states (Ebonyi, Edo and Ondo states). The health care workers working in these centres are trained in standard infection prevention and control (IPC) as well as in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and case management. In addition, the field teams are actively investigating the suspected cases and deaths reported in community settings and contacts are being followed up.
The WHO noted that currently, three laboratories at Abuja, Irrua and Lagos are operational and testing samples for Lassa fever by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Phylogenetic analysis of 49 viruses detected during the 2018 outbreak, provided through ongoing collaborations between Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Bernhard Nocht Institute of Tropical Medicine, African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease (ACEGID) and Redeemer’s University, has shown evidence of multiple, independent introduction of different viruses and viruses similar to previously circulating lineages identified in Nigeria. This is indicative that the main mode of transmission is through spillover from the rodent population and limited human-to-human transmission.
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