Sixteen deaths from Lassa fever have been recorded in the country in three weeks, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Out of 107 suspected cases of the disease, 61 have been confirmed.
These figures describe the prevalence of Lassa fever in ten states across Nigeria in January alone.
This is as three persons have also died from Lassa fever and seven others have been hospitalised in Imo State, according to the governor, Rochas Okorocha.
Governor Okorocha disclosed this when he addressed journalists in Owerri on Wednesday.
According to NCDC, the states affected so far are Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Kogi, Imo, and Lagos.
The NCDC, in a statement on Wednesday, disclosed that ten healthcare workers were infected in four states with Ebonyi recording seven, while Nasarawa, Kogi, and Benue recorded one.
Of the seven infected in Ebonyi, three have died.
The NCDC explained that it had activated its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate the response to Lassa fever to curtail the outbreak reported from several states on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health.
The EOC has also deployed Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to the most affected states – Ebonyi, Ondo, and Edo states, the statement added.
The agency stated that the RRTs were supporting the states in response coordination, contact tracing, case management, risk communication, and strengthening infection prevention and control practices.
“Emergency supplies have also been sent to treatment centres in all affected states,” it said.
Part of the statement reads: “Following the increasing number of Lassa fever cases reported from several states across the country, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has activated its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate the response to the outbreak on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health.
“The EOC has deployed Rapid Response Teams to the most affected states – Ebonyi, Ondo and Edo states.
“The RRTs are supporting the states in response coordination, contact tracing, case management, risk communication and strengthening infection prevention and control practices.
“Emergency supplies have also been sent to treatment centres in all affected states.
“Since the beginning of 2018, a total number of 107 suspected Lassa fever cases have been recorded in ten states: Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Kogi, Imo and Lagos.
As at January 21, 2018, the total number of confirmed cases is 61, with 16 deaths recorded. The case of Imo State now makes it 19 deaths and 68 confirmed cases.
“Ten health care workers have been infected in four states: Ebonyi – seven, Nasarawa – one, Kogi – one, and Benue – one, with three deaths in Ebonyi State.”
The statement further said that NCDC was collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, African Field Epidemiology Network, US Centers for Disease Control, University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) and other agencies, to support the response in the affected states.
Three Die, Seven Hospitalised Imo
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo said on Wednesday that three persons have died from Lassa fever and seven others have been hospitalised in the state.
He said he woke up on Wednesday morning to receive the shocking news of the death of three persons from Lassa fever in the state.
The government had taken measures to contain the spread of the disease, he said, but stated that he was scared over the speed of the spread.
The governor advised residents of the state to avoid taking raw garri, shaking hands with people, and generally keep away from crowded places and body contacts.
He said: “These cases were recorded in some hospitals, somewhere in Orlu and other parts of the state.
“For this reason, we kindly advise that people avoid over-crowded areas, lessen the shaking of hands and body contacts at this period.
“You are aware that Lassa fever is caused by some species of rats that eat some food, and people come to eat it.
“That is the major cause of this Lassa fever. The state is on it.
“The Ministry of Health has been adequately informed to take all necessary steps to curtail the spread.
“But as this number has risen this morning, we’ll like to advise that people should avoid as much as possible some foods and body contacts, especially in schools and market places.
“We will do everything humanly possible to make sure that this spread is curtailed.
“While the government is taking this action, people should keep a clean and healthy environment at this time; avoid so many children staying in one place, while government should handle the burial of those that died of Lassa fever.
“As you know, Lassa fever is deadly, but if any discovery is made, lives can be saved.
“It’s nothing to worry about. We have always had issues of Lassa fever, especially during periods of extreme heat.
“We advise that people report cases of fever of any sort to the nearest hospital, and doctors – by this development – have been advised on what to do when such cases are reported.”
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr (Mrs.) Angela Uwakwem, said the state government was working to quickly contain the spread of the disease.
“We, therefore, advise Imolites to take care of their personal hygiene very seriously, avoid exposure of food to rats, body contacts and cook their food very well,” Uwakwem said.
Also, the Medical Director of Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Dr. Kingsley Achigbu, revealed that the medical institution admitted some patients but had referred them to other hospitals outside the state.
“We had some patients with the fever, but we have referred them out to other states,” he said.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated by infected rodents.
Person-to-person transmission can also occur, particularly in a hospital environment in the absence of adequate infection control measures.