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How yellow fever killed over 100 in Katsina

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Over 100 people, including women and children, were said to have lost their lives in Matazu, Danmusa and Kankara Councils of Katsina State, following outbreak of a strange disease, later diagnosed to be yellow fever.

While opinions are divided about an actual number of deaths, residents, including a village head and a former councillor, said fatality was high, but the deaths over a period of weeks. Two of the most affected communities were Kogari and Matazu ‘A’ electoral wards in Matazu council, where residents would not forget in a hurry, what happened in September and last month.

For over seven weeks, residents said they woke up to an illness that left scores dead, with more in critical conditions in hospitals or at home receiving treatment from local herbalists. A resident, Mrs. Lawesa Murtala, 43, who lost her five-year-old baby, in an emotional tone, narrated what happened: “My baby started having feverish conditions and we rushed him to the nearest hospital. They took sample of his blood, but could not get a match for him.

“After sometime, they managed to get him a blood match and my son received blood transfusion and became better and we thought he was on his way to recovery.”But shortly after, he began to bleed from the nose and mouth and after sometime, we lost him to the disease.”

Mrs. Murtala had hardly finished mourning her baby when her husband, a community school headmaster, locally referred to as Mallam Murtala, also lost his life to the disease.He had symptoms of the disease and was managing to move around to work and carry out other responsibilities at the home front before the disease subdued him.

According to the locals, the disease starts with sever headache and fever, as well as nausea and vomiting that is often accompanied by traces of blood. Some of the victims were said to later develop yellowish eyes.Though residents described it as a ‘strange disease,’ reports, however, indicated that the sickness might be consistent with symptoms of yellow fever.

The most affected communities include Unguwar Galadima, Daurawa, Unguwar Sarka, Gurgu in Kogari electoral ward, Kasharuwa and Unguwar Gara in Matazu ‘A’ electoral ward.Locals said put the number of deaths in the five affected communities at over 100, though some insisted that the casualty figure could be as high as 200.

This is in addition to several deaths said to have occurred in Danmusa and Kanakara council, the exact number of which has been left to speculation.

A former councillor in Kogari, Sule Ibrahim, said over 112 deaths had been recorded in the area in the last three weeks alone, adding that three people lost their lives a few days ago with several others hospitalised due to the disease, which he explained was first noticed in the area before it spread to neighbouring Unguwan Sarki community.The village head of Kogari, Alhaji Shuaibu Ilyasu, disclosed that over 50 people have died in recent days, with almost every home having at least one member lying critically ill due to the illness.

“Over 50 people, including women and children, have lost their lives in recent days. We are still in disbelief over the deaths that have occurred due to this strange disease.”There are reported cases of the disease in Unguwan Sarki, but I don’t know the exact figures, as the area is not under my jurisdiction.”

A resident of Unguwan Sarki, who gave his name as simply Ibrahim, said he had lost a loved one and confirmed that several people had died or were lying criticality ill at home or in the hospitals due to the disease. He added: “I don’t know how many people have died in this community, but I know that we have over 15 dead, while some are battling for their lives at home and in the hospital.”

Sources from Kankara and Danmusa also said some communities, especially those in remote areas, had been severely affected by the disease, with the death toll said to be substantial.One of the sources, who preferred anonymity, said over 10 people had died in Danmusa, while 11 more lost their lives in Kankara.

“The death toll and those lying in critical condition may be higher in Kankara and Danmusa Council, as we keep hearing of cases by the day. “Most of those affected live in the rural areas, where it is sometimes difficult to have access to health personnel or facilities. It is only with time before we can know the actual figures, in terms of casualties,” he said.

But the state government put the death toll at 24, made up of 18 in Matazu and six in Danmusa Councils.Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Kabir Mustapha, said the disease was first reported in Danmusa and eight persons were brought to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in the state capital on referral. Mustapha, however, said six people lost their lives to the disease some few days later, with 18 dead in Matazu, while 47 cases had so far been recorded in the state.

He dismissed report that scores of people had lost their lives to the disease, adding that such figures were far different from what government has in its record.He said as a way of preventing an outbreak of the disease or spread of the disease, seven million doses of vaccines were procured and over 6.3 million persons have been immunised across the state with the last nine months.

Executive Director of the state Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Shamshudeen Yahaya, lamented the reluctance of some residents to be immunised during the exercise, even though they fell within the age bracket of those that are supposed to be immunised against the disease. Yahaya reckoned that such reluctance might be responsible for the spread of the disease and loss of lives, saying: “Part of the issues we have is that sometimes, people do not avail themselves of these services provided free of charge by the government.

“Immunisation is one of the interventions that can save millions of people, children and adult alike.” Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) has confirmed, in a report, that the ‘strange disease’ was indeed yellow fever.

In the report, NCDC Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the Centre was working with the state government to address the challenge, noting: “The reality is that there is an outbreak of yellow fever in Katsina State and we are working with the state government to respond to it.”

Ihekweazu said the Centre had collected 46 samples from patients that have symptoms of yellow fever and 13 were confirmed to be yellow fever.”It is possible that among those not confirmed, some of them would have had yellow fever. It is a complex business to get exact number during an ongoing outbreak,” he added.

The director general said the outbreak was referred to as strange diseases because there were no laboratories to detect what they were immediate. He, however, stated that nipping the disease, which is spread by mosquito, is very hard, adding: “The strategy is vaccination. If you receive a single shot of vaccine, you are immunise for life.”


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