Ministry ends emergency phase of Lassa fever outbreak

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The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, on Friday announced the end of the emergency phase of Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria.

Adewole, who made the announcement at a news conference in Abuja stressed that although the threat was minimised, it does not mean that the fight was over.

According to him, since the beginning of January 2018 the country has experienced the largest Lassa fever outbreak in history.

He noted that in May 2018, 423 confirmed cases of Lassa fever were recorded with a total of 106 deaths.

”The Lassa fever outbreak provided an opportunity for us to review and strengthen our public health system across disease preparedness, detection, surveillance and response.

”The Federal Ministry of Health through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), activated an Emergency Operation Centers that worked extensively to coordinate outbreak response activities.

”The end of the outbreak does not mean we will no longer record cases of Lassa fever. Given the epidemiology of the disease in Nigeria, there will still be reports of cases.

”However, we are now better prepared and have a stronger response architecture,” he said.

Adewole noted that one of the medium-term strategies has already started as a nationwide training of healthcare workers on Lassa fever case management and diagnosis by NCDC and Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital.

He added that the National Lassa fever working group at NCDC will remain active, ensuring Lassa fever cases are detected early, treated with an increased level of awareness across the country.

The Minister further said that the ministry was also aware of the recent outbreak of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to Adewole, NCDC is currently coordinating a national working group that is assessing and managing the risk in Nigeria.

”We are in close communication with our partners including the World Health Organization, who are in Congo to monitor and respond to the situation.

”The Port Health services units have been placed on red-alert and will heighten screening measures at ports of entry.

”Letters of alert have also been sent to all States to enhance surveillance activities and an advisory note for the general public.

”Over the last few years, we have strengthened our health security infrastructure to effectively prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases including Ebola,” he added.

Adewole also mentioned that the Federal Government has launched its project for regional disease surveillance systems enhancement (REDISSE) to shore up response to epidemics.

He said that the World Bank set up the REDISSE project to cover all West African countries in the wake gaps shown by the 2014 Ebola outbreak in the region.

According him, the 90m dollar project was aimed at strengthening disease preparedness and response in these countries, including Nigeria.

The Chief Executive Officer, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, stressed that the NCDC will continue to work harder in disease prevention, detection and response.