With a humanitarian crisis that followed almost a decade of the Boko Haram insurgency, Borno state in Nigeria’s northeast is in the news for yet agains for another wrong reason, recording its first Lassa fever outbreak in 48 years, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report on Friday.
The last confirmed outbreak of the deadly disease was in 1969.
WHO said it “is supporting the government to contain the outbreak in an area of the country which is already coping with a humanitarian crisis resulting from years of conflict.”
Briefing journalists on the outbreak, Borno State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Haruna Mshelia said the case was isolated from a middle-aged woman from Zabramarri village near Maiduguri.
To contain the outbreak, the WHO said its emergency humanitarian health team in the state has taken a number of actions, including rapid training on clinical case management, contact tracing, mobilizing a network of healthcare workers at the hospital, and building public awareness.
This began with identification of 54 people who had contact with the index case, who would be monitored for 21 days according to WHO protocols to ensure that any Lassa fever-related incidence is immediately contained.
“In addition, WHO has provided the State Ministry of Health and the hospitals with personal protection equipment including gloves, boots, goggles and masks, decontamination supplies, infrared thermometers as well as medical and laboratory supplies.”
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness of 2-21 days incubation period that occurs in West Africa including Nigeria. The virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with a specific rodent (multimamate) urine or faeces. Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur by body fluid contacts, particularly in hospitals lacking adequate infection prevention and control measures.