The federal Ministry of Health on Wednesday, January 6, disclosed that the latest outbreak of Lassa fever has claimed the lives of 35 people since November 2015.
Also about 79 people were infected across eight states of Bauchi, Niger, Nasarawa, Kano, Rivers, Oyo and Edo. The minister of health, Isaac Adewole, made this known at a news conference in Abuja.
He said that laboratory tests have confirmed that 14 people had tested positive for Lassa fever in the past six weeks.
Adewole said the first case of the disease was reported in Bauchi followed by Kano, and added that affected people suffered acute fever with bleeding.
The ministry stated that the symptoms of the virus infection take six to 21 days to manifest and there are no symptoms in 80% of infections.
The virus begins slowly but spreads gradually affecting several organs in the body such as the liver, spleen and kidneys.
The common symptoms include fever, general weakness and malaise followed by headache, sore throat, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure.
The “multimammate rat” called Mastomys natalensis, which has many breasts and lives in the bush and peri-residential areas, is the natural host of the Lassa virus which is shed in the urine and droppings and is transmitted through direct contact, touching objects or eating food contaminated with these materials or through cuts or sores.
The ministry also explained that the infection can be picked up in hospital when prevention and control measures are not observed.
The ministry said: “Person to person transmission also occurs, especially when a person comes in contact with the virus in the blood, tissue, secretions or excrements of an infected individual.”
The minister explained further that the ministry has released a supply of the antiviral drug Ribavirin to affected states, stating that rapid response teams have also been deployed to assist in investigating and verifying the cases and tracing of contacts.
Adewole added: “Nigeria has the capability to diagnose Lassa fever and all the cases reported so far were confirmed by our laboratories.”
The ministry has opened hotlines to contact epidemiologists and the federal health ministry in the event of cases suspected to be Lassa fever: 08093810105, 08163215251, 08031571667 and 08135050005.