A virologist, Dr Solomon Chollom, has called for a holistic audit of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) on infrastructure of hospitals in Nigeria and compliance attitude of caregivers.
Chollom, also the pioneer National Secretary, Society for Scientists in Infectious Diseases (SSID), made the call in an interview with our reporter on Thursday in Abuja.
He said the audit would forestall outbreaks of hospital-acquired infections in an era of heightened global epidemics.
It was reported that on Dec. 8, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was notified of the death of two persons from Lassa fever.
The first case was a pregnant woman who presented in a health facility in Nasarawa State and the second, a medical doctor involved in the management of the patient that later sought medical care in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Another doctor who hospitalised shortly after treating the patient later died, bringing the number of doctors who died to two.
Chollom said the death of the medical consultants had paralysed the medical community as many felt it could have been avoided if the authorities had invested more on workplace safety infrastructure.
“The cause of the death was originally thought to be malaria, following presentations of febrile illness, but disease/autopsy investigation on a deceased patient the medical consultant attended to about a week earlier, returned with a positive test for Lassa fever virus.
“As such, updated evidence now suggests that they might have contracted the virus from the patient in a case of hospital-acquired infection,” he stressed.
He said the lassa fever virus was coming at a time when the world was battling the highly contagious Omicron variant of SARS COV2 virus.
“First, it calls for holistic audit of IPC infrastructure in our health facilities and IPC compliance attitude among caregivers.
“It is an open secret that most health facilities in Nigeria either have no institution-based health and safety policy framework or lack capacity to implement it religiously.
“Consequently, caregivers and care seekers stand a big risk of nosocomial transmission of Level 1 contagion. This is in addition to putting at risk those in their circle of influence,” he explained.
According to him, the season for Lassa fever virus spread will soon come as the rains have ceased and bush burning is in full swing with rodents now more proximal to humans in search of either food or refuge.
“To this end, the call for proper storage of grains must be amplified. Grains and foodstuff must be kept away from rats just as rats must be kept at bay from homes.
“The attitude of drying grains and farm harvest along the highways as it is the practice in most places in Nigeria constitutes a significant risk factor, since rats can easily access them.
“In homes, grains must be stored in leak-proof containers to keep them away from the reach of rodents. Periodic use of rodenticides in homes is also highly advocated to rid homes of rats.
“Health facilities must as a matter of urgency ensure full implementation of IPC measures from entrances through process to exits at health facilities with IPC vanguards detailed to monitor compliance,” he added.
Chollom urged health workers not to give excuses about lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals or claim lack of knowledge on appropriate use of them.
He noted that the waste management policy needed to be reviewed also; “It must also be emphasised that biomedical waste management strategy must be effectively done.
“The practice of having people with the least qualifications in the hospitals handle and manage biomedical waste is unprofessional and unfortunate.
“This must be immediately reviewed as the world is now faced with a glut of Level 1 pathogens like SARS Cov2, Lassa virus and tuberculosis, among others,” he said.
The infectious disease expert also called for strengthening of laboratory capacity and kicked against blind treatment of febrile ailments.
“Significant strengthening and activation of laboratories for effective investigation of febrile illnesses is advocated and the habit of assuming that all febrile ailments are malaria fever calls for professional repentance by those caught in the web,” he said.
The expert urged relevant agencies to engage in continuous education of professionals and the general public to keep Nigerians aware of the threat and the way out of it.