Lassa Fever: Vaccines `Still a Work-in-Progress in Nigeria, says FG

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The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), says there is no vaccine available yet against Lassa fever in the country.

Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, Minister of State, FMOH, disclosed this to newsmen on Friday in Abuja while providing an update on preparedness for Coronavirus (COVID19), and Lassa Fever in the country.

He, however, said that the World Health Organisation (WHO), and some other global public health entities were working to develop an effective vaccine for the country.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that in 2017, the National Institute of Health awarded Tulane University in America, more than $12 million to test a promising drug against the Lassa fever virus.

The grant would also go into developing a vaccine based on a recently discovered key antibody target on the surface of the virus.

Mamora said that significant progress had been made in the identification of the most promising vaccine candidates for the prevention of Lassa fever.

“We are responding to Lassa fever outbreak. Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 16, we had 586 confirmed cases with 103 deaths from 26 states. Of the confirmed cases, 73 per cent came from Edo,” he said.

He stated that the decline in the number of deaths from Lassa fever compared to previous years was an important outcome that testified towards work from all relevant agencies.

“We will continue working with other government agencies, states and tertiary hospitals to protect the health of Nigerians.

“Public awareness is vital in the fight against infectious diseases. Lassa fever and COVID19 are threatening lives on this earth.

“Let us create awareness in our society,” he said.

The minister noted that the most important preventive methods against Lassa fever outbreak were the elimination of rodent habitats by improving sanitation, safe food storage and preparation, and clean water access.

According to him, the public must be taught on limiting consumption or consuming only safely prepared bush meat, by careful use of gloves and thorough cooking.

Mamora said that in health care facilities, suspected cases required strict infection control precautions to prevent contact with blood, body fluids and contaminated surfaces around infected patients.

“Hand hygiene requires washing with soap and water or using alcohol-based sanitiser between patients.

“When working within three feet of a patient, barrier personal protective equipment should include an impermeable long-sleeved gown, gloves that cover the sleeves, and a face mask with eye protection from splashes.

“Safe injection practices require the use of disposable rather than reusable needles. Similar personal protective measures are needed for safe laboratory handling and safe mortuary services,” he advised.

He, however, called on Nigerians to ensure that they kept their homes clean to prevent rats which were carriers of the virus that causes Lassa fever.

He advised Nigerians to contact the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), via Toll-Free number: 0800-970000-10; SMS: 08099555577; and WhatsApp: 07087110839, if any of the symptoms are noticed.

Meanwhile, on COVID19, he said information available to the Nigerian government was that the first case of the virus had been reported from Egypt and that the affected person was a foreigner.

Mamora added that the Ministry had put together an inter-ministerial committee to provide oversight leadership. He said the committee was being coordinated by NCDC and that it meets twice a week.

He said, “Nigeria is receiving technical support from the World Health Organisation, (WHO), Africa Centre for Disease Control and West African Health Organisation”.

He added that the Port Health Services had intensified screening of passengers coming from China and other countries of high risk, adding that screening forms had been provided to all airlines.

“As at now, there is no report of any confirmed case in Nigeria. Clinicians are being trained on management of cases at the moment. We are developing a stockpile of medical supplies to be used in the event of an outbreak.

“Our capacity for testing has been enhanced because we have three laboratories in Edo, Lagos states and Abuja,” he said.

On the outbreak of the strange disease in Benue, which reportedly killed some people, the minister said that government was screening the use of some certain chemicals for fishing in some rivers.

“From our findings, the chemicals contaminate the fishes and the body of the water, which results in the death of those who consumed them.”

The minister, however, cautioned Nigerians against fake news which could cause panic, harm and lead to waste of resources.

Mamora advised Nigerians to share only information from verified sources, while the relevant agencies would continue to keep them informed.


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