Saturday, January 23, 2016

LASSA FEVER 2016 OUTBREAK IN NIGERIA

Happy New year everyone and what a way to start the year than with the outbreak of Lassa fever just after our Ebola scare in west Africa has subsided. In a bid not to cause widespread panic, the media has effectively downplayed the spread of the disease. Unlike Ebola which was on every media platform with instructions on how to prevent it, Lassa fever prevention is delivered just like the warnings for Nigerians to be alert and report terrorism. The reason why Lassa fever seems to be downplayed is because there is a cure, the drug called Ribavirin. Even though it isn’t really available in large supply and hospitals aren’t adequately equipped with equipment that can be used to diagnose the disease, just knowing that a cure exists tends to put the hearts of many Nigerians at rest at this moment. Also, foreign researchers are working hard to create a vaccine for this virus that can be given like the flu shot or among the immunization drugs for infants so the loss of lives to this disease can be minimized.

The reason I believe Nigerians should be more concerned is because the Lassa Virus was discovered and named after a village in Borno State where it was found. It has plagued us as a nation since 1969 with the highest death rates occurring in 2012 with about 1,723 cases of infection, and about 112 fatalities were recorded. With so much hygienic issues (which happens to be the reason why the Ebola virus was such a threat), the chances of this becoming a population wipe-out mechanism are high. As of this moment, despite 10 states reported to have this health challenge (including Edo State where I live), only 42 persons - as at last Sunday - have passed on from the virus. I’ve heard a few Nigerians question the health sector of the country saying, ‘why can’t the ministry of health put a stop to the spread of this disease with the same urgency with which Ebola was prevented?’ The truth is right now, health workers are at the highest risk of contracting this disease and they want nothing more than for the spread to be curtailed. With the case of Ebola, it was the wisdom, courage and selfless act of the late Dr. Mrs Adedovah that helped us identify patient zero and quickly halt the spread of the deadly virus. Unfortunately, no one knows who patient zero for this lassa outbreak is neither was it diagnosed as lassa until multiple people started dying in a similar fashion. This is partly due to the fact that the symptoms of Lassa fever are very similar to that of fever and malaria. Just imagine in a country where 90% of the populace self-medicates in a bid to avoid the high cost of health care, how do you think people who have a week long fever with sore throat and joint pain would react when they first start experiencing these symptoms? It’s not until blood starts coming out of their orifices will they realize all isn’t well and they need to go to the hospital. By then the doctors will need to do check-up and woe betide the health worker whose supply of hand gloves and protective masks just got exhausted or wasn’t supplied that day due to policy/administrative issues. Do you know it takes 76 vials of the Ribavirin drug as injections for 5 days to effectively treat lassa fever? If you hate injections, just do the maths and it’ll come up to about 13 vials injected into an infected person per day.

So what can we do to avoid going through all that? The answer is simply by observing proper hygiene. Since the endemic virus is hosted by ‘multi-mammate’ (multiple mammary gland) rats which you can hardly tell apart from a normal rat, simply avoid using any utensil without washing/rinsing it especially if it is in an area where you know rats visit and try to play. These days rats eat into plastic so when I hear rodent proof container for storing foods or food items, I’m thinking something metallic. When you feel the urge to sneeze, use a hankie or cover your mouth properly and wash your hands as soon as possible because the virus can also be transmitted through aerosols a well as contact with items contaminated by rat fluid or excrement and fluids from an infected person. Try to decongest your environment of rats by properly disposing perishable items and taking out the thrash daily; also by fumigating or using rat killers (I here rat traps - be it poison or the sticky paper type - are now more expensive these days. I salute our smart business savvy market women who know how to move with the trends/seasons, lol). Go to a hospital and be willing to be quarantined if need be to protect yourself and loved ones. For more details, just google lassa fever (of course there are a ton of online resources on how to prevent Lassa fever). Let’s be wise this season and take good care of ourselves.

For more posts on me when my blog seems dormant, check me out on twitter (@annkite0) or visit my blog’s facebook page.

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