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Why Lassa Fever outbreaks persist in Nigeria

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• NCDC Confirms 163 Cases, 24 Deaths In 2020
• Concerns As Killer Coronavirus Could Be Spread Through The Eyes

Despite warnings by experts that there may be increase in cases of infectious diseases, such as Lassa fever (LF), cerebrospinal meningitis and flu during the dry season- November to March- no fewer than 163 Nigerians have been infected and 25 others lost their lives to LF in 2020.
   
Latest figures from the Lassa fever Situation Report published, yesterday, by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that in 2020, there are 398 suspected cases, 163 confirmed incidences and 24 deaths, with Case Fatality Ratio (CFR) of 15.7 percent in nine states and 32 Local Government Areas (LGAs).
 
However, according to the NCDC report, in the third week of January 2020, the number of confirmed cases has increased from 64 cases in the first week to 81. These were reported from six states, including Edo, Delta, Taraba, Plateau and Bauchi.
 
It noted: “The number of deaths has decreased. The overall CFR for 2020 is 15.7 percent, which is lower than the CFR for the same period during 2019, which was 23.4 percent.“In total for 2020, nine states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 32 LGAs. Eighty-nine percent of all cases are from Edo (38 percent), Info (38 percent) and Ebonyi (11 percent) states.

“The affected predominant age group is 11– 40 years. The male to female ratio for confirmed cases is 1:1. The number of suspected cases has increased, but is lower than the numbers reported in 2019. No health care worker infection was identified in the reporting week 03.”
   
On why Lassa fever outbreaks persist in Nigeria, Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said: “Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria, and cases are recorded all year round. There is usually an increase in cases between November and May during the dry season. The Lassa fever virus is transmitted by rodents, which can be found in our environment. This contributes largely to the risk of spread that occurs in Nigeria and other countries with similar ecological factors.
 
“We currently do not have a vaccine to protect against Lassa fever. Therefore, we rely on strengthening measures, such as ensuring proper sanitation, good personal hygiene and standard care precautions by health workers, among others, to prevent the spread of Lassa fever. These measures also depend on personal responsibility, highlighting that we all have a role to play in preventing the spread of Lassa fever…”
   
Meanwhile, it is feared that the killer coronavirus could be spread through the eyes, as Chinese doctor, Wang Guangfa, fears he caught the Severely Active Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-like infection because he was not wearing protective goggles, while attending to patients.
 
Latest figures indicate that coronavirus has killed 46 patients and infected more than 1,000 in three weeks.Yesterday, scientists warned that coronavirus, rapidly sweeping the world, could be caught through the eyes. Experts confirmed it is possible, saying the virus can enter the eyes by touching them, if it is on the patient’s hands. However, experts said heavy-duty masks, gloves and sanitary wipes reduce risks, though hand washing is the best way to prevent infection.

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