Just within a year and few months after the country battled Ebola plague when it was imported to the shores of the country by late Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian, the nation is grappling with another scourge, Lassa fever.
So far, 43 lives have been lost as cases have been confirmed in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and 12 states across the country which included Bauchi, Edo, Gombe, Kano, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers and Taraba.
The situation has fuelled a fresh fear of more loss of lives if urgent steps are not taken to stem the tide of its spread. Even some experts have warned and advised Nigerians against drinking of garri for now to prevent Lassa fever.
Lassa fever manifests itself in the form of an haemmorrhagic fever (bleeding fever) caused by lassa virus. It has its origin in a small town called Lassa in Borno State, far back in 1969, where it was first discovered. It is a communicable disease that can be contracted through contact with the urine and faeces of rats. The dangerous dimension is that transmission through breast milk has also been observed.
Its mild but ravaging symptoms are: weakness, headaches, slight fever, and general malaise. At the advanced stage, carriers suffer haemorrhaging of the eyes, gums or nose, repeated vomiting, respiratory distress, back pain, chest pain, abdominal pain, facial swelling, shock tremors, hearing loss and inflammation of the brain. Lassa fever is an annual epidemic that records 300,000 to 500,000 cases each year resulting in about 5,000 deaths globally. This figure is however, disputable due to inaccurate survey.
That’s why we call on the Federal Government to take urgent and sustainable preventive and curative measures to prevent its further spread just as it was done in the case of Ebola in 2014.
There is need for the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to step up sensitization in the communities – markets, motor parks, churches and mosques on the scourge.
We also recommend that there should be a concerted effort to educate citizens on food storage. Individuals and families should be made to appreciate the danger of eating rodents (bush meat especially rats and the likes).
Food and other consumables contaminated with rat secretions should be promptly discarded.
Similarly drying food at open spaces and road sides where there may be contact with rats should be discouraged, while food cooked in the kitchen should be covered at all times and kept in rat proof containers.
The present administration should borrow a leave from the approach and methodology used by the erstwhile Jonathan administration to bring the deadly Ebola virus to its knees.
Government and the governed should leave no stone unturned to stop Lassa fever before it claim more lives, the 43 lives it has taken in the last few weeks were more than enough for urgent and decisive action!
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