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Osibogun: Proper hygiene, good waste disposal preventive strategy against Lassa Fever

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Akin Osibogun

Akin Osibogun

For some time now, the rate of infectious diseases in Nigeria has been of concern. In 2015, there was the re-emergence of Lassa fever, after the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

However, with the immediate intervention of experts, the Ebola disease was tackled. Lassa fever has killed many people in different parts of the country.

The recent outbreak of the disease is a signpost for countries that do not have proper healthcare system to do the needful. Lassa fever is prevalent in West African countries. The disease was first discovered in a town in Borno State in 1969. Since then, it has been re-emerging in Nigeria.

Consultant Public Health Physician/Epidemiologist at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL)/Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Akin Osibogun, said Lassa fever is one of the haemorrhagic fevers and is caused by the Lassa Fever Virus.

He said: “It is transmitted, when rats urinate or defeacates on food items consumed by man. It is also transmitted from man to man, when an uninfected person comes in contact with body fluids of an already infected person. The common symptoms are fever, generalised joint pains and bleeding from orifices and into tissues.

“The diagnosis is by examining a blood sample of the patient in the lab, using a PCR Machine and where it is available, genetic studies can help specify in details, the virus. A Lassa Fever Reference Laboratory is at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo State. Some other Virology Labs in other Teaching Hospitals, including LUTH, have the capability to detect the virus, as well.”

Osibogun, who is also the immediate past Chief Medical Director (CMD) of LUTH, said prevention remains the best treatment. “However, if patients are picked up on time, a drug treatment is available,” he explained. “The Federal Ministry of Health, as part of its preparedness, maintains a strategic stock and usually provides to states confronting an outbreak.

“The main preventive strategy is to maintain proper hygienic and waste disposal practices that can help limit contact between rats and man’s habitations. Proper disposal of refuse and securing foodstuff in closed/covered rat-proof containers, also helps.

“The other strategy is to avoid contact with the body fluids of infected persons. For health workers, they must adopt Universal Precaution practices, when dealing with all patients, so as to protect themselves, as well as, avoid health facility related transmission of the disease.”


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