Nigeria is facing the worst epidemic of Lassa fever its history
Detected 1 January 2018, this outbreak has already killed 72 people, and infected more than 700 people. In only one week, 317 people in Niger have been contaminated by this haemorrhagic fever, has alerted the World Health Organization (WHO). This suggests that the speed of propagation of the epidemic accelerates. “Well that Nigeria is in endemic areas, the number of cases had never reached such a level. In two months, it has already exceeded that reported in 2017”, underlined the africa office of the united nations agency. The outbreak of Lassa fever has spread to 18 states out of 36. In these territories, the Centre of disease control in the country has already identified and monitored 2845 people have been in contact with sick people.
“Given the significant number of states affected, many patients will visit health centers that are not equipped for this disease. The risk of contamination to the health care will therefore increase,” warns Dr. . Wondimagegnehu Alemu, the WHO representative in Nigeria. In fact, since January, 14 caregivers have been infected, and 4 of them are dead. The south of the country hard hit In its press release, the african office of the WHO states that the health services are overwhelmed in the southern state of Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi.
In these regions located in the south-west of Nigeria, WHO comes to the aid of the health authorities and referral hospitals to expand access to centers of specialized treatment and improve the equipment to reduce the risk of infection of healthcare workers. The teams WHO also learn to the doctors and nurses the rules of prevention, such as wearing a protective suit or the establishment of high risk areas to isolate the sick.
“The ability to quickly detect cases, to treating in a treatment centre improves the chances of survival for the sick, but is also crucial to limit the epidemic,” said Dr.
. Alemu. In parallel, the WHO is supporting Benin, a neighbouring country of Nigeria, which is facing him also to an emergence of fever, Lassa. Twenty suspected cases have been reported in recent days. Without symptoms in 80% of cases These countries in the Gulf of Guinea, frequently undergo this infectious disease caused by a virus. In 80% of cases, it is asymptomatic.
But in one case out of five, the condition is striking. Fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, appear between 6 and 21 days after infection. In severe cases, oedema, convulsions or coma may occur. “The overall case fatality rate is 1%. . One of the patients affected by a severe form can reach 15% in a hospital setting,” says WHO, adding that the death occurs usually within two weeks. The survivors of infection can produce serious sequelae. A third suffers from deafness, temporary or permanent, and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart). To this day, there is no vaccine to prevent this disease. Only rules of hygiene help prevent the contamination because humans can contract Lassa fever after eating food contaminated by the urine or faeces of rats.
The virus can also be transmitted from human to human through direct contact with blood, urine, or feces.
“No epidemiological data have attested to the air-borne transmission,” says WHO.
Regarding treatment, a single molecule, ribavirin, has shown its effectiveness. But unfortunately, it is inappropriate for the field. In addition to its low availability, it is often administered too late to be effective.