Nigerians are now on high alert owing to outbreak of Lassa fever caused by rat virus; the “multimammate rat” disease has killed some persons with increased death following its spread in many states.
Minister of Health, Professor Isaac F. Adewole while wishing Nigerians a Happy and Prosperous New Year, allayed their fears on the epidemic outbreaks of a Haemorrhagic Fever in November 2015, now confirmed by the nation’s laboratories to be Lassa Fever Viral Disease.
Adewole assured the public that the government and its partners, and other stakeholders were working tirelessly to address the outbreak and bring it to timely end.
People who have experienced the menace of rat and mice in their offices and homes would tell you that rodents are not easy to dispel. The diseases caused by them are also deadly, as already witnessed by the nation in the case of Ebola and of recent Lassa fever.
Nigeria is experiencing yet another outbreak of Lassa fever, which has so far affected 10 states; the death of a newly married man in the capital city recently, making it the first fatality in the nation’s capital since the outbreak last November.
The Minister of Health said measures to curtail further spread and reduce mortality among those affected include immediate release of adequate quantities of ribavirin, the specific antiviral drug for Lassa fever, made to all the affected states for prompt and adequate treatment of the cases, while rapid response teams from the Ministry had been deployed to all the affected states to enhance investigation and verification of the cases as well as tracing those who may have come in contact with victims.
“Clinicians and relevant healthcare workers had been sensitised and mobilised in areas of patient management and care in the affected states, and affected States have been advised to intensify awareness creation on the signs and symptoms including preventive measure such as general hygiene, stated Adebowale.
He noted that Lassa fever was first detected in Nigeria 1969 and that the number of recorded cases peaked in 2012 when 1,723 cases with 112 fatalities were recorded, adding that it continued to decline since then.
The disease has continued to rear its ugly head even though the minister believes, and rightly too, that Nigeria has the capability to diagnose Lassa fever as according to him, all the cases reported so far were confirmed by laboratories in the country.
He was however quick to note that due to the non-specific nature of Lassa fever symptoms and varied presentations, clinical diagnosis is often difficult and delayed, especially in the early course of the disease outbreak.
So, what is the way forward in tackling Lassa fever and other disease outbreaks?
A health expert, Dr Bashir Abubakar, said more preventive health measures, which recorded fewer diseases in the past, should be re- emphasised by health practitioners instead of post active measures after outbreaks of epidemics like Cholera, Typhoid Fever, Lassa fever, and Measles etc may have claimed lives of innocent Nigerians.
Speaking with Nigerian Pilot Saturday, Dr. Abubakar said, “Clean environment, good sanitation and proper ventilation prevent diseases more than curative health after many deaths may have been recorded.
“Instead of spending huge sums on drugs people should be educated on how not to get the diseases, health workers should be trained and retrained and community leaders sensitised on health matters.
Others also spoke on adverse effect of unsanitary conditions in the FCT.
“Lassa fever is not a new thing. What do you expect when there is rat and mice everywhere? We see them in the surroundings of our homes, market stalls, schools, and especially in dirty environments. The way out is for Nigerians to re- live the clean culture of our parents in the past.
“My father was a disciplinarian and would make us wash, sweep and clean out dirt in whatever forms but these days such traits don’t exist in homes,” a civil servant who spoke with Nigerian Pilot Saturday said.
Similarly, unplanned and overcrowded market places usually experience sanitation problems. This phenomenon has contributed to the spread of infectious diseases and environmental hazards.
Madam Elizabeth at the Utako market agrees, “We have huge refuse around the market we often see rodents scurrying about on the refuse.
Mama Alice, also a trader in Utako market believes nothing can be done about sanitation at that level. “What do you want government to do? The market is very big how can they eliminate rat, mice and even cockroaches?
“I sell soup ingredients like egusi, stockfish, dried okro and leaves. I try as much as possible to cover them up before leaving.”
A market union member who craved anonymity said the FCT Environmental taskforce is doing its best to promote cleanliness in markets, abattoir and business centres but the traders have not been supportive.
“We have tried as much as possible to eliminate rodents in our market by using rat poison. That’s the reason you see dead rat everywhere when you come to the market,” he stated.
Mallam Nasiru from Kebbi State said it is difficult to repel, eliminate and remove rodents from markets and other business areas because the clean culture exhibited in the past has been abandoned and suggested enhanced community environmental inspection by government.
He was of the opinion that environmental sanitation officials only came to harass traders and lace their pockets rather than perform their duties.
“That’s why the FCT looks dirty these days. You see people roasting maize, yam on the roadside, groundnut and orange peels everywhere as well as blocked drainages, broken pipes and smelly environment that’s why Lassa fever has resurfaced and Malaria is on the increase,” said Nasiru.

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