Author Topic: NIGERIA: Lassa fever claims 17 lives in Kebbi State  (Read 1248 times)

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KANO, 20 May 2010 (IRIN) - Health authorities are on alert as Lassa fever has now claimed 17 lives and infected dozens of people in northwestern Nigeria's Kebbi State, according to state health officials.

The last outbreak of the deadly disease took place in February 2010, killing seven people, including four doctors at the National Hospital in Abuja.

In March 2009 over 300 people were infected in 14 states across the country.

Lassa fever (named after the village of Lassa in northeastern Nigeria where it was first reported in the 1970s) is an endemic acute viral haemorrhagic disease common in West Africa and endemic in Nigeria, which is usually contracted through contact with rodents' faeces. The disease causes fever, headaches, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhoea, and can affect vital body organs. It affects up to 500,000 people annually in West Africa and leads to 5,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The current outbreak started four weeks ago and has spread to the districts of Augie, Kalgo and state capital Birnin Kebbi, said Shehu Mohammed, chief epidemiologist for Kebbi State.

Kebbi State health authorities did not realize what they were dealing with for the first two weeks of the outbreak until clinical tests of blood samples from some of those infected were conducted at southern Nigeria's Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Mohammed said.

WHO is bringing in its medical experts from South Africa, the Netherlands and southern Nigeria to assist the health authorities to tackle the outbreak.

The battle against the disease has been hampered by lack of political will, information and adequate funding, George Akpede, chairman of the National Lassa Fever Stakeholders Forum, told IRIN.

In February 2010 parliament passed a motion calling for an emergency response to be launched in the event of a Lassa fever outbreak, given its fast infection rates.

"The government needs to take urgent steps in establishing control centres and a central coordinating agency to help in advocacy on prevention and cure for Lassa fever," Akpede said.



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