The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated a National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) on the 24th of January 2020, to coordinate Lassa fever response activities.
Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General of the Centre disclosed this in Abuja.
The activation of the centre, according to him, is in response to the increasing number of Lassa fever cases across the states in the country.
Ihekweazu stated: “As at the 24th of January 2020, 195 confirmed cases and 29 deaths had been reported in 11 states. Of the confirmed cases, 89% are from Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi States. The increase in the number of cases at this time of the year is not unusual due to ecological factors.
“The National EOC includes representatives from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Environment, World Health Organization, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control, and other partners.
“The NCDC continues to support states in strengthening their preparedness and response capacity. Over the last three weeks, NCDC has deployed Rapid Response Teams to support five of the affected states”.
He further stated that Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire had led a high-level delegation to Kano State on the 25th of January 2020, following the deaths of two health workers infected with Lassa fever.
In addition, NCDC has rapidly increased risk communications and community engagement activities to ensure that Nigerians are aware of the risks of Lassa fever and measures to protect themselves, he said.
He hinted that there has been a decline in the case fatality rate of reported Lassa fever cases from 23.4% in 2019 to 14.8% this year. NCDC continues to support treatment centres across states in the country to effectively manage Lassa fever cases.
In addition, five laboratories in Nigeria have the capacity to diagnose Lassa fever in Nigeria. These laboratories are critical to reducing turnaround time between identifying a suspected case and confirmation. This ensures prompt case management and other response activities, thereby reducing the number of deaths.
Nigeria is contributing to research and other activities for the development of a Lassa fever vaccine. NCDC and the three main treatment centres in the country – Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Owo and Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki – are set to commence Lassa fever epidemiological studies that will provide data to guide research and response activities.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control remains committed to protecting the health of Nigerians. It is important for members of the public to practice good hygiene and take measures to protect themselves and their families.