In a concerning update, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has reported a significant increase in Lassa fever cases across Nigeria. According to the NCDC’s Lassa Fever Situation Report for Week 37 (September 11 – 17, 2023), a total of 1,968 cases have been recorded, spanning 112 local government areas within 28 states of the federation.
This viral hemorrhagic fever, caused by the Lassa virus, primarily affects West African countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria. The virus is transmitted to humans through contact with the urine or feces of infected rodents, particularly the multimammate rat.
The NCDC data reveals that 75% of these Lassa fever cases have been identified in the states of Ondo, Edo, and Bauchi, underscoring the regional prevalence of the disease.
The situation has become increasingly alarming, with 7,352 individuals currently under suspicion of having contracted Lassa fever. Tragically, the disease has claimed at least 181 lives, resulting in a case-fatality ratio of 16.9%.
Comparatively, this case-fatality ratio is lower than the corresponding period in 2022, indicating some progress in managing the disease. However, the persistence and spread of Lassa fever remain a significant public health concern.
The NCDC’s report highlights that healthcare workers are also at risk, with 49 of them contracting Lassa fever in 2023. This underscores the need for stringent infection prevention and control measures within healthcare facilities.
To combat the escalating crisis, the National Lassa Fever Multi-partner, Multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre has been activated to oversee response activities at all levels.
The NCDC has emphasized the critical role of prevention in stemming the spread of Lassa fever. This includes measures such as avoiding contact with rodents and their excreta, practicing good personal hygiene, and taking precautions when caring for infected individuals.
Additionally, early diagnosis and timely medical intervention are crucial in managing the disease and preventing complications.
The surge in Lassa fever cases serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing health challenges faced by Nigeria and the need for robust public health measures, surveillance, and community awareness to combat the spread of infectious diseases. Health authorities and the public must work together to curb the impact of Lassa fever and protect vulnerable communities.