Doctor, nurse killed as Lassa fever returns

Ebonyi State government yesterday confirmed the death of a doctor and a nurse from a renewed Lassa fever outbreak in the state.

Commissioner for Health Dr Daniel Onwuzurike spoke with reporters in Abakaliki. He noted that the deceased were working at the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki (FETHA).

Onwuzurike said 12 samples had been collected and tested for possible detection with four testing positive to the dreaded disease.

“Apart from the two confirmed deaths, we have not confirmed whether another doctor who worked in the hospital died of the disease as he was known to be diabetic.

“He was being managed for blood-sugar derangement and has been on self-medication for malaria and typhoid fever before his death.

“We will still confirm whether he died of Lassa fever and have also commenced the tracing of possible contacts of another suspected victim, a FETHA staff but a resident doctor at Afikpo,’’ he said.

The commissioner said the contact-tracing for all suspected cases would end today, while the victims would be placed on the stipulated 21-day surveillance required for full confirmation.

“It is, however, pertinent to note that the disease’s index case (suspected source) survived after being treated by doctors and has been discharged.

“We urge indigenes of the state not to panic because the outbreak is an isolated one and not an epidemic as erroneously being speculated.

“The state government has intervened tremendously by providing needed resources and logistics such as drugs needed for its treatment.

“We have also contacted the federal ministry of health on the issue and it has pledged to immediately send needed commodities and manpower to complement our efforts,’’ he said.

He debunked the insinuation that the samples and suspected patients have been referred to the General Hospital, Irrua in Edo as the South-East Virology Centre Abakaliki, constructed by the state government was functional.

“We no longer experience panic or pandemonium in hospitals and in the state whenever such cases are reported because our virology centre effectively handles all reported cases.

“There was also no panic among doctors, nurses and patients at FETHA on Sunday as we only fumigated its premises and evacuated patients, especially those at the accident and emergency section,’’ he said.

Umezurike said the ministry was in collaboration with the FETHA management and relevant health stakeholders in the state, assuring the people that the situation was under control.

“We will sustain our enlightenment campaigns over the media and relevant avenues on the need for people to maintain adequate hygiene and immediately report suspected cases to relevant authorities,’’ he said.

Minister of Health Prof Isaac Adewole yesterday urged Nigerians to look out for suspected cases of meningitis.

Prof Adewole spoke in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital at the weekend while sharing with the members of Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria.

The minister said:” That is why we are saying Nigerians should be on the lookout for it. It is so easy to treat. The vaccine is expensive.  When a case is detected we have an epidemic threshold then we quickly vaccinate people in the local governments, that is the best we can do for now.  When we are more prosperous then we can vaccinate everybody.

“The conjugate is about $20 a vial, while the polyvalent is $3 a vial, so you can calculate what we need for the Nigeria population, and that is for just the vaccine, not including the syringes and other consumables; so, our best bet is to alert Nigerians that this is the season for meningitis and they should beware. We need to contain it.”

He went on: “Meningitis is seasonal and this is the season and we are alerting Nigerians. The terrible outbreak we had in 2017 was because it was on for three months before we got to know. All of us know what meningitis is, it requires a lumbar puncture; look at the fluid cerebrospinal fluid. When you check and it is milky, then you know there is infection and you can culture it and begin treatment.

“It is so easy to treat because the causative organism is responsive to antibiotics, but when we do not know that it is meningitis, we could treat malaria for three to five days, typhoid for one week then by the time we get to know, it would have spread. And it spreads like wildfire. As we attend to patients, 10 people can surround the infected person and that one patient would infect six or seven persons and it spreads like that. So, this is the season to alert people to look out and promptly report any suspicion to nearest health facility.

“The government does not have enough money to vaccinate the whole country.”