By Amara Christa
Nigeria’s death toll from the ongoing Lassa fever outbreak has risen to 176, data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has shown.
Nigeria is now battling two deadly diseases: Lassa fever and COVID-19, which has infected 65 people and caused one death.
While COVID-19 is a new global disease with less epidemiological information, Lassa fever has become endemic in Nigeria and the country has battled it annually for the past 50 years.
The NCDC, on Thursday, said since the onset of the 2020 Lassa fever outbreak, the country has recorded 932 confirmed cases and 176 deaths.
Last week, the total number of deaths was 161, meaning 15 people died from the disease within the last week.
NCDC said for reporting week 12, the number of newly confirmed cases decreased from 51 cases in week 11, to 28 cases.
The new cases were reported from 12 states – Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Taraba, Plateau, Kogi, Abia, Enugu, FCT, Benue and Gombe.
The gradual reduction of new cases could be as a result of the rains in some parts of the country especially in places with a high burden of the disease.
Lassa fever outbreaks have become an epidemic disease in Nigeria as it is diagnosed all year round. The outbreak peaks in the dry season from November to May.
As at the time of reporting, a total of 4012 suspected cases with 932 confirmed cases (11 probable) and 176 deaths have so far been reported in 125 local government areas in 27 states.
These figures represent the total cases from the beginning of the year until March 22.
Figures from NCDC for the same reporting period in the previous year show that cases this year are higher than what was obtainable last year.
As of the same period in 2019, a total of 1924 suspected cases, 510 confirmed cases and 119 deaths were reported in 74 local government areas in 21 states.
From the report, no health worker newly contracted the virus. This is good news for the health workers as their members are usually susceptible to contracting the disease.
Since January, a total of 34 health workers have been affected.
Cumulatively, from week 1 to week 12, 176 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate of 18.9 per cent. In total for 2020, 27 states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 125 local government areas.
Of all confirmed cases, 72 per cent are from Edo, Ondo, and Ebonyi states.
The predominant age-group affected is 21-30 years and the male to female ratio for confirmed cases is 1:1.2.
Lassa Fever is a hemorrhagic disease transmitted by a vector called multimammate rat.
The virus is transmitted from the excreta or urine of the vector to humans, and from humans to humans.
There is also no vaccine yet to prevent the spread of the virus. However, the federal government has said there are ongoing researches to find a lasting solution (vaccine) to the outbreak.
In the meantime, NCDC has advised that anyone suspected of being in contact with a Lassa patient needs to be presented to the health facilities within a period of 21 days.
Symptoms of the disease at early stages are similar to febrile illness such as malaria.
General symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pains, chest pain, and in severe cases, unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, vagina, anus and other body orifices. It could also present persistent bleeding from sites of intravenous cannulation.
Early diagnosis and treatment increase a patient’s chances of survival.