Lassa fever: NCDC announces end of emergency phase in Nigeria

[FILES] CEO of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), on Friday announced the end of the emergency phase of Lassa fever outbreak in the country.This was made known in a statement signed by the Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, on Friday, in Abuja.

Ihekweazu said that the announcement followed a joint epidemiological review by the NCDC, WHO Nigeria and other partners.

According to him, on the 22nd of January 2019, the NCDC activated a national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), to coordinate response activities.

He said that the EOC was in response to an increase in Lassa fever cases at the beginning of the year.

Ihekweazu added that since the beginning of the outbreak, 578 confirmed cases including 129 deaths have been recorded from 21 states as at May 26.

He said that the NCDC, Federal Ministry of Environment, and that of Agriculture and Rural Development, as well as other partners coordinated by WHO Nigeria, led response activities across the country.

He however noted that lessons from the 2018 outbreak and strategic response had improved preparedness through training of health workers across the country and communications campaign before the outbreak.

According to him, this included “early deployment of One-Health Rapid Response Teams, to affected states and support for surge staff deployment.

”Establishment of new treatment centres in Kebbi, Benue and Kaduna and strengthening of existing treatment centres.

“Re-positioning of medical and treatment supplies in all 21 states with confirmed cases in 2018.

“Improved collaboration with agricultural and environmental health stakeholders and introduction of rodent control strategies among others,” he said.

Ihekweazu said that following a robust response, the Lassa fever case count has significantly declined in the past seven weeks and has now dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency.

He added that this year, there was also a decline in case fatality rate of Lassa fever, from 27 percent in 2018 to 22 percent in 2019.

The NCDC boss said that despite the end of the emergency phase of the outbreak, NCDC expects that sporadic cases may continue to be reported in endemic areas.

He also said that the agency would coordinate preparedness and response activities through a multi-sectoral Lassa Fever Technical Working Group.

”The group’s focus is to continue monitoring cases, as well as improve disease prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and response activities across all levels in Nigeria.”

According to Ihekweazu, the agency will continue to improve its knowledge, preparedness and response to Lassa fever outbreaks.

”Given that Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria, it is likely that the country will continue to record cases of Lassa fever.

”However, we have several research strategies to improve our knowledge of the disease.

”We are also working with states and partners to establish more long-term strategies, such as improved risk communication, infection prevention and control, regular environmental sanitation.

“Others are; enhanced capacity of health workers and improvement of treatment centres, among others, ” he said.

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