The Ondo State government has begun the distribution of 10,000 doses of rat poison to destroy rats in Lassa fever prone communities, as the dreaded virus begins its upward trend in the state.
Ondo and Edo states are the epicentres of the virus in the country.
The Lassa virus is said to be transmitted to man by infected multi-mammate rats.
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), humans become infected from direct contact with the urine and faeces of the rat which contains the virus, through touching soiled objects, eating contaminated food, or exposure to open cuts or sores.
Secondary transmission from person to person can occur following exposure to the virus in the blood, tissue, urine, faeces or other bodily secretions of an infected individual. Hospital-acquired (nosocomial) transmission from person to person are not uncommon and importantly can occur if appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is not worn when managing suspected cases.
Out of the cumulative fatalities of 244 recorded last year nationwide, Ondo State recorded 81 deaths, from a total of 423 confirmed cases.
Comparatively, 41 people died from COVID-19 in the state by the end of 2020.
According to the figures in Week 1, dating from January 1-10, 2020, Ondo State recorded three confirmed Lassa Fever cases out of the 18 suspected cases considered.
So far, during the new week, no death has been recorded in Ondo, but two deaths were recorded in Bauchi State, according to NCDC.
The cumulative fatality figure for week 1 is nine, reported in four states of Edo, Ondo, Bauchi and Ebonyi.
But the Ondo State Government, not waiting for an explosion of the epidemic, has begun an awareness campaign in Lassa prone communities and distributing about 10,000 doses of poisons to residents of Ayede Ogbese in Akure North Local Government Area.
The aim, according to the government, is to kill the rats in the community to curb further spread of the virus.
The State Epidemiologist, Stephen Fagbemi, at the campaign on Wednesday, tagged “End Lassa Now,” said Ondo is now the epicentre of the virus in the country.
Mr Fagbemi was represented by Dolani Gbelela, the Assistant State Epidemiologist.
Mr Gbelela said 423 cases of Lassa fever were recorded in 2020 out of which 81 persons died, representing 34 per cent of Lassa Fever related deaths in Nigeria.
He said that Lassa Fever is of a greater burden to the state, hence the need for the campaign and advocacy for necessary measures to be put in place to eradicate the scourge.
Mr Gbelela also disclosed that those most affected were between 21 and 30 years of age.
He noted that after the poisons were distributed, about 3000 rats were killed in Owo alone since the campaign began in December.
The Special Adviser to the governor and Acting Commissioner for Health, Jjibayo Adeyeye, said Lassa Fever had killed many people in the state since it was first discovered in Ose local government.
“The scourge, which was usually experienced in Ose and some LGAs sharing borders with Edo State, has spread to over five other LGAs, hence the need for the aggressive de-ratification exercise being embarked upon,” he said.
Mr Adeyeye further said the good news was that no Lassa Fever mortality had been recorded this year and all hands were on deck to ensure non is recorded.
He then urged all residents of Ogbese to play their roles in preventing the outbreak of the disease by cleaning their environment, clearing all bushes around their houses, disposing of refuse properly, as well as killing all rats in their environment.
The Odopetu of Ogbese, Oladimeji Abitogun, in his remarks, said proper attention should be given to Lassa Fever just as it is being given to the insurgency, COVID-19 and other life-threatening matters as every life is important.
Mr Abitogun added that more deaths had been recorded from Lassa fever than COVID-19 in the state.