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NCDC declares end of emergency phase of 2020 Lassa fever outbreak

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has declared an end to the emergency phase of the 2020 Lassa fever outbreak noting that the development represents a successive decline in cases below the emergency threshold.

Revealing that this was achieved through an epidemiological review carried out by NCDC and World Health Organisation (WHO), Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said on January 24, 2020, the centre declared Lassa fever outbreak and activated a national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

“This was in response to increase in Lassa fever cases at the beginning of the year, exceeding the threshold of an outbreak. Since the beginning of the outbreak, 979 confirmed cases and 188 deaths were recorded in 27 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja as at April 19, 2020.

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“The Lassa fever case count has significantly declined in the last three weeks and has now dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency,” he said.

He stated that in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the centre remained focused on prevention, detection and response to the outbreak of other infectious diseases in Nigeria, including Lassa fever.

Ihekweazu explained that in the last four months, the NCDC in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Response have led Lassa fever response activities across the country.

He added, “This was done in collaboration with ministries of health in the states with support from partners coordinated by the WHO,” stressing that there was a decline in case fatality of Lassa fever from 23 per cent in 2019 to 19 per cent in 2020.

The NCDC also supported peer-to-peer training by creating exchange programmes among states, treatment centres and laboratories.

“Importantly, the NCDC in conjunction with the major treatment centres at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State, Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State and Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owo, Ondo State has begun the process for a large epidemiological study in collaboration with the WHO.

This epidemiological study being implemented in Nigeria and other West
African countries, is expected to contribute to the development of Lassa fever vaccine,” he stated.

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