Nigeria: Death Toll Hits 13 As Lassa Fever Spreads to 9 LGAS in Benue

The Benue State government on Tuesday disclosed that the death toll from Lassa fever outbreak in nine local government areas of the state has risen to 13 amid efforts to stem the tide.

Daily Trust had at the weekend reported nine people dead following the outbreak of Lassa fever in parts of the state. However, four more deaths have been recorded in the past two days, bringing the total to 13.

The state Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Yanmar Ortese, who made the disclosure at a press conference in Makurdi, stressed the need for public awareness as early detection of cases could improve the chances of the victims.

He quoted the World Health Organisation (WHO) as saying that, Nigeria is the country with the highest number of reported Lassa Fever cases and deaths globally and that in the past few years, there had been several large outbreaks of the disease in Nigeria, with thousands of cases reported.

He said, “The Benue State’s situation report of the current outbreak from 1% in November, 2023 to 2nd March, 2024 (Epidemiology week 9), shows a total of 725 suspected cases, 55 confirmed cases with 13 deaths, 2 probable cases and a Case Fatality Rate (CFR) of 23.6%. The nine LGAs affected are Makurdi, Guma, Gwer West, Gwer East, Okpokwu, Obi, Ogbadibo, Otukpo, and Ukum.

“These figures are not just worrisome but it calls for collective action to stop the spread of the disease in the state. In epidemiological week 6, we also had the unfortunate incidence of detecting 4 infected persons in one of the IDP camps in the state. This population are highly vulnerable due to the overcrowding in congregate setting with poor hygiene.

“Fortunately for the state, the disease outbreak response team intervened promptly. The confirmed cases were treated and their contacts were monitored for symptoms. They were asymptomatic and exited follow-up on 1% March, 2024.

“It is also pertinent to note that this is the highest number of positive cases in the last 4 years. This has put pressure on the treatment centre in Benue State University as the cases passing through it have doubled. Cumulatively, from onset of the outbreak, BSUTH treatment centre has managed 90 cases (both suspected and confirmed).”

Ortese listed symptoms of Lassa fever to include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, internal bleeding, leading to death.

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He urged the public to follow up prevention steps to prevent the spread of virus by practicing good hygiene, such as regular hand washing with soap and water, avoid eating food contaminated with urine or feces from infected rats, among others.

He further counselled healthcare workers in the state to always have a high index of suspicion whenever they see any patient presenting with fever and to always observe infection prevention and control (IPC) measures.

The commissioner also disclosed that the Benue State Ministry of Health activated State multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre for Lassa Fever (LF-EOC) following a risk assessment that placed the state at a very high risk of increased Lassa Fever transmission within and beyond its borders.

Ortese added that the purpose of the LFEOC activation was to achieve a state multi-sectoral coordination and response across affected LGAs to interrupt disease transmission, reduce the impact of the disease by reducing suffering and death, and other socioeconomic complications of the disease.

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