THE Nigerian Academy of Science has asked the Federal Government to declare Lassa fever disease a public health event of national concern attaining an emergency status.
Mosto Onuoha, President, Nigerian Academy of Science said this in a statement issued on Monday, asking the Federal Government to set up an interdisciplinary One-Health Committee (comprising of medical and veterinary specialists, epidemiologists, social scientists, media practitioners, community representatives etc.) to advise and assist the NCDC in investigating and managing Lassa Fever outbreaks.
He said Government should provide adequate funds for a sensitive disease surveillance system backed by a reliable network of diagnostic laboratories.
“Given that only about 20 percent of suspected Lassa fever cases are usually confirmed, there is the need to improve the capability and enhance the capacity of the national laboratory network for reliable and efficient DEFINITIVE diagnosis of suspected cases,” he said.
The Federal and State Governments, according to him, need to mount an extensive and sustained public Lassa fever prevention and control awareness programme.
He added that each state should establish a functional isolation ward for the treatment of Lassa fever patients.
“It is important to set up a mechanism for improving environmental sanitation in a sustained manner throughout the country to reduce rodent population and rodent – human contact,” Onuoha said.
“Funds should be provided for research into finding new drugs for Lassa fever treatment and the development of a Lassa fever vaccine.”
He acknowledged and commended the effort of the federal government, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and other relevant agencies so far.
Over the 50-year period of Nigeria reporting 16,783 suspected Lassa fever cases, 11,195 (67 percent) were reported between 2016 and January 29, 2020, while 632 (60 percent) of 1,047 Lassa fever deaths were reported during the same period.
In 2016, 921 suspected cases were reported. The respective figures for 2017 and 2018 were 1,030 and 3498 suspected cases. An alarm was raised over the tripling of the number of suspected cases between 2017 and 2018, only for the reported number of suspected cases to rise in 2019 to 5057 which was 145percent of the reported 2018 figures.
During the period 1969 to 1975, the range of Lassa fever mortality in hospitalized patients, was 33percent-100 percent. In recent years, the mortality rate has dropped to 20percent.
Laboratory confirmation of suspected cases has been of great concern. Of the 3498 suspected cases in 2018, only 633 (18percent) were confirmed LF positive, while in 2019, only 833 (16.5percent) of the 5057 suspected were confirmed.