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Lassa fever death toll hits 144, says NCDC

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Death toll from the latest round of Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria has risen to 144, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said on Thursday.

Its Case Fatality Rate (CFR) was put at 16.8 per cent.

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The NCDC said this is lower than the CFR for the same period in 2019’s 23.3 per cent, which highlights improved levels of detection and case management for Lassa fever across the country.

NCDC’s Director General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who gave an update on the disease, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that in Week 10, the number of new confirmed cases decreased from 85 cases in Week Nine in 2020 to 81 cases.

He said these were reported in 15 states of Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Taraba, Plateau, Benue, Kogi, Anambra, Delta, Enugu, Adamawa, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kebbi.

The NCDC DG said that in total for 2020, 27 states had recorded at least one confirmed case across 119 local government areas.

According to him, of all confirmed cases, 74 per cent are from Edo (34 per cent), Ondo (33 per cent) and Ebonyi (seven per cent).

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Ihekweazu noted the number of suspected cases had significantly increased compared to those reported within the same period in 2019.

He said NCDC had rapidly scaled up its preparedness and response for Lassa fever outbreak across the country.

According to him, the Lassa virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces.

The NCDC boss noted that person-to-person transmission, through contact with body fluids, such as semen, urine and blood, could also occur, particularly in hospitals lacking adequate infection prevention and control measures.

Ihekweazu noted that early supportive care with rehydration and symptomatic treatment improves survival.

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He reiterated that NCDC would continue to support affected states through deployment of inter-disciplinary Rapid Response Teams and provision of medical supplies, including Rivabrin, for treatment of Lassa fever patients.

The NCDC DG advised Nigerians to continue to keep their environments clean and store food in tight containers to avoid contact with rats.

He advised health workers to maintain a high index of suspicion for the disease.

“If a patient does not respond to treatment for malaria or other febrile illnesses after 48 hours, it is important to immediately test for Lassa fever,” he said.

NAN reports that Prof. Wasiu Adeyemo, Chairman of Medical Advisory Committee at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Idi-Araba, Lagos, said the Lassa fever index patient had been discharged from the isolation ward.

Also, the Lagos State government promised to begin eight weeks extermination of rats and fumigation of 27 model colleges with hostel facilities, abattoirs/slaughter houses, produce and regular markets against Lassa fever.

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