As Nigeria deals with the worst outbreak of Lassa fever on record, medical professionals at Irrua in Edo state – the epicenter of the emergency – are dealing with high caseloads and long hours.
At least 365 cases of the highly fatal hemorrhagic disease have been recorded across the West African nation, and more than 40 percent are in Edo although at least 17 states have been affected, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says.
There’s a positive trend in the decline in cases in the past three weeks, NCDC CEO Chikwe Ihekweazu said Sunday, but the agency remains on full alert. The infection can be treated if caught early enough.
“The Nigerian Center for Disease Control has elevated the response to this outbreak to the very top level,” he said. “We have activated our Emergency Operations Center and we are doing everything we possibly can to respond to this outbreak.”
The death toll stands at 78, with four health workers among them, according to the latest World Health Organization data. A case also was reported in Guinea in January, affecting communities in Liberia where the deceased had traveled too.
Lassa fever is endemic in a number of countries in West Africa, where people become infected with Lassa fever due to exposure to infected rodents, or from person to person due to exposure to the body fluids of persons sick with Lassa fever. Health workers are at risk when they handle Lassa fever patients without adequate standard precaution and protective apparel.
Image: Chikwe Ihekweazu/NCDC