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Up to 14 cases of death linked to Lassa fever were reported in Nigeria’s southwestern Ondo state this week while 82 were infected in seven states and 13 councils across the country. Other states affected include Edo, Ebonyi, Taraba, Plateau, Bauchi, and Ogun.

This was revealed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in a report tagged Lassa fever Situation Report for January 06 to 12, 2020. The number of new confirmed cases for the same period in 2019 was 60.

“The overall case fatality rate (CFR) for 2020 is (17.1 percent) which is lower than the CFR for the same period during 2019 (28.7 percent). In total for 2020, eight states have recorded at least one confirmed case across 13 Local Government Areas,” the report reads.

Of all confirmed cases, 89 percent are from Edo (38 percent), Ondo (38 percent) and Ebonyi (11 percent) states while the predominant age-group affected is 11-40 years, NCDC says. The outbreak has caused panic in Ondo, with many residents in fear that the disease might spread from the northern part of the state, where it frequently breaks out, to other parts.

Lassa fever is more common in West African countries like Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria, which experienced its first outbreak of Lassa fever in November 2015, in Bauchi state.

Then on January 21, 2019, the NCDC declared an outbreak of the fever following an increase in the number of cases. Between January 1 to 27 last year, a total of 213 confirmed cases including 41 deaths were reported from sixteen states (Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Plateau, Taraba, Gombe, Anambra, Kaduna, Kwara, FCT, Benue, Rivers, Nassarawa and Kogi States).

The illness is said to be caused by the Lassa fever virus with an incubation period of 6-21 days. It begins with symptoms like fever, followed by a headache, sore throat and body pain. Other high-risk symptoms may include diarrhoea, bleeding from the mouth, vagina or gastrointestinal tract, and low blood pressure.

Although there has been no clear method of preventing the outspread of the fever, measures such as healthy hygiene and a clean environment to avoid the breeding of rats are preventive steps to keeping Lassa fever under control.

In this regard, a director of Public Health in Enugu State, Dr Boniface Okolo, has also warned Nigerians to avoid soaking cassava flakes (widely referred to as Garri), which is highly exposed to the deadly disease.

By Ahmed Iyanda.

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