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A medical researcher, Dr Bamidele Iwalokun, has called on the three tiers of government to improve the level of emergencies preparedness and response to strengthening public health against burden of Lassa fever.
Iwalokun, the Head of Immunology and Vaccinology Research Group, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos State, made the call on Saturday in an interview with the News Agency Nigeria in Lagos.
The medical researcher spoke on the outbreak of Lassa fever in Lagos State following which two persons have been confirmed dead.
NAN reports that the Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, Prof. Chris Bode, had on Aug. 8 confirmed that two patients died of Lassa fever at the hospital.
Bode, confirming the reports, also said that no fewer than 100 health workers exposed to the index cases were currently being monitored.
Iwalokun said that the major gap in the nation’s health system was the low level of preparedness, which according to him, contributed to the constant outbreak of Lassa fever yearly in the country.
“Low level of preparedness also affect the level of suspicious index cases during emergencies.
“The preparedness can be improved through continuous community-based surveillance of Lassa fever by public awareness and adequate laboratory to generate data for trend analysis.
“Strengthening of Lassa fever awareness campaign and education across the country, mostly at the primary healthcare level, so as to increase the level suspicion of index cases in rural areas.
“It will help the appropriate health officials to intervene, monitor and evaluate Lassa fever control in the country.
“We need to strengthen our clinical practices in all the health facilities by training the health personnel on how to handle emergency cases to reduce the delay in diagnosis and treatment of any outbreak,” Iwalokun said.
He said that there was need to carry out research more on the epidemiology of strains of the Lassa fever virus circulating in Nigeria to effectively track the source of future outbreaks.
According to him, most of the cases we have in Lagos are secondary cases which means there is need to ensure standard infection prevention and control in the country.
“Secondary contact is a person that has direct contact with the primary contact.
“Post-exposure prophylaxis should be given to contacts to reduce the risk of secondary transmission,” the medical researcher said.
Iwalokun said that Lassa fever could be transmitted to humans through food stuffs and household items contaminated with rodent urine and faeces.
“First of all, access to these foodstuffs by rodents should be prevented by an intensive, effective and continuous rodent control measures.
“Environmental hygiene, which entails clearing of bushes around food stores or houses and avoidance of indiscriminate deposition of wastes in a community is also essential,” he said.