Hajj 2018: Ministers allays fear on prevalence of Lassa fever

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United Bank for Africa

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewale, says Nigeria does not constitute a global threat to any nation due to isolated cases of Lassa fever recorded in some states in the country.

Adewale stated this at the meeting of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) with Hajj Stakeholders on Lassa fever, organised by his office in Abuja.

The Minister said that Nigeria was on the verge of being declared Lassa fever free as the country currently has only a single reported case of the disease in one week.

He said that since January this year, due to the measures put in place by the Federal Government, incidence of Lassa fever was declining, saying.

“I can tell you that in the last one week only one case was recorded in Nigeria.”

According to him, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also confirmed that in the last eight weeks the disease is going down in Nigeria.

He assured the government would continue to work assiduously to ensure constant surveillance of disease saying “any case of fever we will test to be sure is not Lassa fever”.

He said that the Ministry of Health was building capacity of health workers to ensure quick response, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari has released fund for the upgrade of health facilities and procurement of Lassa fever drugs.

Commenting on 2018 Hajj, the Minister said all Nigerian pilgrims must be thoroughly screened before they would be allow to be transported to Saudi Arabia for Umrah or Hajj, adding no Nigerian would be allowed to travel to Saudi with Lassa fever.

Speaking Earlier, the Executive Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria(NAHCON), Abdullahi Muhammed said Saudi Authority had mapped out strategies and precautionary steps that would ensure that no Nigerian pilgrim enters the country with anything that would cause transmission or infection of Lassa fever.

”As you are all aware of recent, there have been media reports with regards to Lassa fever in Nigeria which drew the attention of Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health and in their wisdom they mappef out some preventive measures to guard against it transmission in Saudi during hajj.”

He assured that NAHCON, as the regulatory body for Hajj and Umrah, would do whatever it takes to complement the efforts of Saudi authority in ensuring that all travellers for hajj and Umrah are free of anything that had to do with Lassa fever.

”Since this matter was brought to the attention of the commission, we quickly wrote to the SGF and draw the government attention to the precautionary measures that the Saudi Authority will take.

”In the wisdom of the SGF he decided that we should have this very important stakeholders meeting with all Commissioners for Health from 36 states of the Federation and FCT.

”The essence of this gathering is for us to map out strategies that will give comfort to the Saudi Ministry of Health and the international community that Nigerian pilgrims will not in anyway endanger the lives of other members of the community that are performing hajj or umrah,” Muhammad said.

He said that NAHCON and all State Pilgrims Welfare Boards had agreed to work together in line with the guidelines that would be issued by the Federal Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies in screening pilgrims and their logges thoroughly.

This according to him, would make sure that pilgrims loggeses did not carry any insect or animal that transmit or could cause the infection of Lassa fever.

The NAHCON boss urged Executive Secretaries and Chairmen of State pilgrims boards to rededicate themselves so that Nigeria could prove to the world that the country was not a carrier of Lassa fever.

He, therefore, said that NAHCON had resolved as a matter of priority to constitute a National Medical Team for 2018 Hajj that would work hand in hand with all the relevant agencies in the screening of pilgrims to ensure that they are medically fit to travel to Saudi.

”I want to assure our brothers in Saudi Arabia that we will not allow any of our pilgrim to endanger the lives of other nationals that will be coming for hajj or umrah.

”We understand the fears and we will work together to address the situation, “he said.

The SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, said that the efforts put in place by the Federal Government to curtail the spread of Lassa fever was yielding good results.

Mustafa, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Special Duties, Office of SGF, Mr Olusegun Adekunle, urged Nigerians to change the narrative about the disease because it was seriously declining.