The Federal Government has confirmed 212 suspected cases of Lassa Fever in 64 Local government areas across 17 states in the country, even as it warned against a conspiracy of silence among the states of the federation.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Issac Adewole, who disclosed this, Tuesday, in Abuja at the Emergency National Council on Health meeting with state Commissioners of Health and other stake- holders in the health sector, said the current out-break was a national embarrassment.
Adewole, who debunked rumours in some quarters that the disease was a “gimmick to get money from the government, said objective of the meeting, was to facilitate discussion on control of the ongoing disease outbreak; to develop strategies of prevention and management of all cases in Nigeria, among others.
He said: “There is a high level of denial and a conspiracy of silence in some of our states. I think people take delight in saying we have no case and to me that is not the issue.
“In fact, if you are able to pick a suspicious cases, to me that is the issue because that goes to tell us that the surveillance system is at work.
“We also want to alert all health professionals in the country that they should report any case. I have described the outbreak as a national embarrassment. We can manage embarrassment, but when we allow another outbreak to occur in August this year, it will become a national shame to all of us. One of the things we will do to prevent us from dragging this nation into shame is to stamp out Lassa Fever.”
“Healthcare managers should not deceive their political leaders that all is well. All states should consider themselves at risk.”
“It has affected 64 local governments across the country and we have been able to pick 212 suspected cases. It dates back from August last year, not just this year. It is better to over-count suspected cases than to under-count.
“The real hot spots are Niger, Bauchi, Taraba, Kano, Edo, Nasarawa, Plateau and Rivers, but for us to be honest with ourselves, all states should consider themselves at risk and please, put up measures to contain, prevent and reassure the community that we are on top of the situation,” he asserted.
Meanwhile, there was panic among workers of the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, OAUTHC, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Tuesday, following the death of a resident doctor after exhibiting suspected Lassa Fever symptoms.
The incident, fuelled by rumours that the Lassa virus may have spread from neighbouring Ekiti State, led to other medical personnel as well as patients at the Emergency Unit of the hospital, fleeing the scene.
An atmosphere of fear had enveloped the Obafemi Awolowo University community as news of the doctor’s demise filtered around.
Sources close to the hospital said that the late doctor died after vomiting blood within the hospital premises.
A colleague of the deceased, who pleaded anonymity, revealed that he had visited Ekiti State before arriving Ile-Ife, Monday.
But the hospital authorities debunked insinuations that the doctor died from Lassa Fever.
In a statement confirming the death, the Chairman, OAUTHC, Professor Adedeji Onayade, said the fact that the doctor bled to death could not be taken to mean he died of Lassa Fever.
Onayade said blood samples of the late doctor had been obtained and sent for screening and confirmation, and that until the result was confirmed positive, it could not be said that the hospital recorded a case of Lassa Fever.