Lassa fever kills 2 doctors, 1 health worker in Oyo

From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan

Lassa fever has killed two medical doctors and one ancillary health worker, working with a private hospital in Igboho, an agrarian community in Oorelope Local Government Area of Oyo State.

The Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Oyo State branch, Dr Ayotunde Fasunla, and Commissioner for Health in the state, Dr. Olabode Ladipo, made this known to journalists in Ibadan on Thursday during separate encounters.

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The latest development has made the death toll from a total of 19 persons that have tested positive to Lassa fever so far in the state within the past two months to four.

The NMA state chairman stated that the three deceased personnel had attended to some patients in Igboho, who came to the private health facility, and probably presented cases of malaria, and they were treated for such. He added that the two medical doctors died first, before the health worker also died in the early hours of Thursday.

Accotdijg to him, “The NMA announces, with deepest regret and sorrow, the demise of two of her members and one health worker from Lassa Fever. The tragic deaths occurred within a space of 72 hours. It is indeed a sad week, and our eyes are still soaked in tears.

“While we thought that COVID-19 had done its worst, we are now dealing with another onslaught of a Lassa Fever outbreak. Furthermore, we are worried about other health workers, who have had contact with the diseased unknowingly. We have advised them to quarantine and report if they develop any symptoms of viral hemorrhagic fever.”

Commissioner for Health in the state, Ladipo, explained that four health workers from a private health facility were admitted into a treatment centre in the early days of the week, saying: “Upon diagnostic investigations, all the four were confirmed positive of Lassa fever. Unfortunately, three of them, consisting of two doctors and another hospital staff died, despite all efforts at caring for them by experts.

“Oyo State Ministry of Health has continued to make efforts at curtailing the spread of the outbreak of Lassa fever since the first case was detected in January, 2022. Nineteen confirmed cases and four deaths have been recorded so far. Surveillance activities have been heightened to all individuals at risk of this disease. Resources have also been deployed to designated health facilities to forestall spread of this disease across the state.”

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Ladipo implored all healthcare providers to have a high sense of suspicion for all cases of fever with profound weakness as well as bleeding from any or all body orifices. He enjoined health workers to conform with universal safety precautions in the line of their duties.

“The public is also admonished to remain calm, while ensuring adherence to strict preventive measures. Individuals having symptoms such as fever, sore throat, vomiting, generalised body weakness, chest pain, swollen face, swollen eye or neck, stomach pain or bleeding from any body openings without trauma should report promptly to the nearest health facility or call the state Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

“It is important to note that the virus causing this disease is transmitted from infected rats to humans or from an infected human to other humans. The Ministry hereby implores all residents of the state to avoid contact with rats, contaminated food items by rat faeces, urine and other body fluid, while maintaining strict personal and environmental hygiene. We implore all health facilities across the state to maintain high index of suspicion and report all suspected cases to the local government areas or state health authorities.”

The NMA chairman, Fasunla, stated further that the association has urged its members to treat all febrile illnesses with a high index of suspicion, adding that the association had also instructed its members to be cautious and vigilant at all times.

“Not only for the sake of their health and safety, but also in the interest of the patients and public health. Members, especially the frontline doctors and other health workers, must wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) at all times.

“We appeal to management of health institutions in the state to make PPEs readily available, as well as soap and running water for handwashing immediately after attending to patients. This is to protect our members and other healthcare workers from contracting transmissible infections.

“We appeal to the Oyo State Government to conduct intensive surveillance and sensitisation on Lassa Fever outbreaks in the affected communities as well as across all local government areas in the state.

“We commiserate with the families of our colleagues who lost their lives in the course of performing their professional duties to the service of humanity. May their gentle soul rest in peace,” Fasunla said.

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