Nigeria’s health authorities on Friday announced the end of the emergency response to Lassa fever outbreak in the country, calling for improved collaboration with agricultural and environmental health stakeholders and introduction of rodent control strategies, among others, to curtail the spread.
The announcement followed a joint epidemiological review of the outbreak by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, according to the head of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu.
So far, 129 deaths have been recorded from the outbreak in 21 out of the 36 states in the west African country. The first case and death of the latest outbreak were recorded on Jan. 13.
On Jan. 22, authorities declared a fresh outbreak of the disease, saying an Emergency Operations Center was activated to coordinate the response activities.
A total of 578 Lassa fever cases were confirmed as of May 26, Ihekweazu said, noting some 17 health workers in seven states were among victims of the outbreak.
This year, there was a decline in the case fatality rate of Lassa fever, from 27 percent in 2018 to 22 percent in 2019, according to the NCDC official.
Given that Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria, it is likely that the country will continue to record cases of the disease.
Despite the end of the emergency phase of the outbreak, the NCDC would coordinate preparedness and response activities through a multi-sectoral Lassa Fever Technical Working Group as sporadic cases may continue to be reported in endemic areas, Ihekweazu said.
“The group’s focus is to continue monitoring cases, as well as improve disease prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and response activities across all levels in Nigeria,” he said, adding the agency will continue to improve its knowledge, preparedness, and response to Lassa fever outbreaks.
Ihekweazu said lessons from the 2018 outbreak and strategic response had improved preparedness through training of health workers across the country and an awareness campaign before the outbreak.
Recent epidemiological data show that Lassa fever usually occurs in Nigeria during the dry season, between January and April.
Humans become infected with the Lassa virus from exposure to urine or feces of infected mastomys rats. Other than common preventive measures such as washing hands regularly, the World Health Organization has also recommended keeping cats.
In 2018, the NCDC reported at least 143 Lassa fever deaths across the country. Enditem