THE Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) on Monday called on the Federal Government to embark on intensive public enlightenment campaigns as more states confirmed cases of Lassa fever
It said the government needed to bolster the country’s preparedness in handling infectious diseases, especially viral hemorrhagic fever, at all levels of healthcare delivery through an increase in the budgetary allocations to the health sector and full implementation of the National Health Act (2014)
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) listed Lagos, Abuja, Owo, Irua and Abakaliki as cities hosting five functional molecular laboratories for diagnosing and detecting Lassa Fever
The NMA explained in a statement by its President, Dr. Francis Faduyile, that the frequency of Lassa fever outbreaks gives credence to the deplorable state of healthcare delivery in Nigeria.
The statement said: “It is important to strengthen institutional infection prevention and control measures and preparedness with periodic capacity building and build more diagnostic and treatment centres across the country in order to effectively combat this dreaded virus.
“The NMA, therefore, calls on the government and all stakeholders to join hands together to ensure the speedy and full implementation of the National Health Act 2014, increase the budgetary allocation to the health sector to 15 per cent of the annual budget in line with the minimum benchmark recommended by the Abuja Declaration of 2001. All must also be committed to the revamping of the primary healthcare system.
“We appeal to health authorities at all levels to prioritize the capacity building of healthcare professionals on standard infection prevention and control measures and ensure the provision of basic disinfectants and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment in healthcare facilities. We call on corporate organizations, NGOs and religious organizations to work with Government and the Nigerian Medical Association in intensifying ongoing public enlightenment campaign and ensure that all Nigerians are educated especially those at the rural communities on preventive strategies and prompt care-seeking.”
The NMA advised people, especially those living in rural areas to wash their hands with soaps frequently and use hand sanitizer when appropriate as means of staying free from the disease.
It urged health workers to adopt precautionary measures when caring for suspected Lassa fever patients “ with the use of gloves and avoiding contact with the body fluid (urine, vomitus, faeces and blood) of the sick.
The association added: “All medical and dental practitioners and healthcare professionals, in general, must have a high index of suspicion.
“In addition to basic infection prevention and control measures, extra precaution should be taken whenever a patient presents with the symptoms especially the ‘wet symptoms’; vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding. The need to insist on appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) cannot be overemphasized.
“Healthcare practitioners should be cautious of the display of heroism especially in the absence of the basics required for care especially appropriate Personal Protective Equipment or in case of lack of the needed skill. This is pivotal to prevent transmission or break the chain of transmission in the healthcare facility setting and prevent avoidable deaths.”
Director-General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, named the hospitals as the National Reference Laboratory in Abuja, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo Edo State; Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Ondo State; Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State and Lagos University Teaching Hospital in Idi Araba, Lagos.
Ihekweazu said: “Presently, samples from suspected Lassa fever patients from South-South states and some states in the South-West are tested at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital; while samples from South-East states are tested at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki.
“Samples from states in the North are tested at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory Abuja and samples from South-West states are tested at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, while Federal Medical Centre, Owo in Ondo State screens samples from Ondo State only.
The Minister of Environment, Mohammad Abubakar, advised Nigerians to stop eating rats.
Abubakar, said: “Nigeria is currently experiencing Lassa fever outbreak in several parts of the country with reported cases of fatalities.
“Latest report from the NCDC released on January 25 has it that 195 confirmed cases and 29 deaths have been recorded in Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Delta, Taraba, Plateau, Bauchi, Ogun, Abia, Kano and Enugu states.
“Out of the confirmed cases, 89 per cent are from Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi states. “