The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Friday, January 29, issued a Lassa Fever Public health advisory to Nigerians.
In the advisory, the Director-General, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said that people of all age groups who come in contact with the urine, faeces, saliva, or blood of rats are at risk of getting Lassa fever.
Others at risk, he said, are people living in rat-infested environments which increases their chances of coming in contact with rats and people who consume potentially contaminated foodstuff especially those left open over-night or dried outside in the open.
Also included are people who handle or process rodents for consumption and people who do not perform hand hygiene when appropriate.
To reduce the risk of Lassa fever, the NCDC advised Nigerians to ensure proper environmental sanitation; keep their environment clean at all times; and also block all holes in homes to prevent rats from entry.
“Cover your dustbins and dispose of refuse properly. Communities should setup dump sites very far from their homes to reduce the chances of having rodents within homes.
“Store foodstuff like rice, garri, beans, corn/maize etc. containers which are well covered with tight-fitting lids.
”Avoid drying foodstuff outside on the floor, roadside where it will be exposed to contamination. Avoid bush burning which can lead to displacement of rats from bushes to human dwellings.
“Eliminate rats in homes and communities by setting rat traps and other means. Practice good personal hygiene by frequent washing hands with soap under running water /or use of hand sanitizers when appropriate.
”Visit the nearest health facility if you notice any of the signs and symptoms of Lassa fever as mentioned earlier; avoid self-medication,” he advised.
The NCDC advised healthcare workers to practice a standard precautions at all times: i.e. wearing gloves; while handling patients or providing care to an ill patient and relative.
He also called on healthcare workers to maintain a high index of suspicion for Lassa fever i.e. be vigilant and look out for signs and symptoms of Lassa fever.
“Any febrile illness that has not responded to 48 hours use of anti-malaria or antibiotics should raise an index of suspicion for Lassa fever.
”Relatives who care for sick persons with unexplained illnesses at home, including: doctors; nurses; and other health workers providing direct patient care in the absence of standard precautions must be cautious.
“To reduce the risk of Lassa fever, the hospital staff must clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces; materials; and supplies with adequate protective gear,” he said.
The NCDC activated a National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) with an inter-disciplinary; multi-partner technical team to ensure a well-coordinated response; and swift control of Lassa fever outbreaks across affected states.