Not fewer than 15 new cases of the dreaded Lassa fever infection have been discovered in Bauchi state out of which 3 have been confirmed and are presently receiving treatment at the infectious diseases isolation center of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH), Bauchi.
While giving an update on the situation in the state, Executive Secretary of the Bauchi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (BASPHCDA), Dr. Rilwanu Mohammed during an interactive session with journalists on Friday in his office said that the remaining 13 suspects of the infection are presently under surveillance by officials of the Agency and other health care agencies in the state.
The Executive Secretary, however, said that as at the time of the briefing there was no record of any death in the state since the outbreak stressing that health officials are doing everything possible to curtail the outbreak.
Rilwanu Mohammed further said that the 15 samples of the suspected cases have been sent to the National Disease Control Center in Abuja for testing to authenticate them stating that although Lassa fever epidemic was not new in the state which he described as “an endemic state for Lassa fever.”
He said: “We heard of the news of some deaths in Kano as a result of Lassa fever and there are a lot of speculations going on regarding Bauchi state. This year in Bauchi, we have recorded 15 suspected cases of Lassa fever, 3 have been confirmed while others turned out to be negative”.
“What happened was that, a lady who lives in Kano came back to Bauchi to see her family and stayed for some days in Bauchi for some time and later traveled to a village in Toro LGA. The highest and greatest risk LGAs in the state for Lassa fever are Toro, Bauchi and Tafawa Balewa where we have many cases”, he added.
The BASPHCDA ES added that, “So she went there and that was where the infection started but I don’t want to say anything more because as an epidemiologist, I don’t talk about what didn’t happen here in Bauchi. But the initial stage of the infection was Toro LGA.”
He said in December last year, the National Center for Disease Control sent a mail to them informing them of a possible outbreak of these diseases this year and advising them to watch out for the outbreak of Lassa fever, yellow fever and meningitis in Bauchi state.
“They said we should keep watching from December last year to March this year and be active in surveillance. We are on the alert, in fact, almost all our money in this Agency has been channeled towards surveillance. Our doctors and Nurses are afraid because you cannot know whether anybody that has fever is suffering from Lassa fever or not. We have told our doctors that any patient that comes with fever should be regarded as Lassa fever,” he stated.
Rilwanu Mohammed informed that over the years, the agency had found out that most of the people that died from Lassa fever in Bauchi were due to renal failure and stressed the need for a dialysis machine to attend to Lassa fever cases since there are dialysis machines for other diseases, “so we need to have a particular machine for that infection so that we won’t transmit it to others, noting that it will cost N10 million to be acquired.
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According to him, since the last time, there was an outbreak of the disease, the Federal Government decided to upgrade the Lassa fever camp situated at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi to a Center for Disease Control.
He said that the state received some support from the federal government because of the outbreak here and there in the state since it is an endemic area, “so the federal government sent the treatment for Bauchi state to be used to take care of some of the patients that come here and there one by one”, he added.
He further said that “Most of these are from five local government areas and these are Toro, Bauchi, Tafawa Balewa, Dass and Bogoro. These are the LGAs where we had higher cases of Lassa fever last year, even this year, these suspected cases are from these places.”
The Executive Secretary also said that initially, the outbreak was rats to humans but, “presently, there is human to human infection going on now in Nigeria and it is a difficult thing to manage, it has no vaccination, we have only treatment.”
He added that: “the thing that usually cause the infection is when you touch the blood, stool or urine of an infected person and the rats can go into the households and spread in your containers. What we want people to do is to avoid spreading food on the street and on the roads because the secretion is very key in the transmission, either from the rats.”
Rilwanu Mohammed said that only last week, some children in a village in the state were seen selling rats for N100 each lamenting that “with this development, how can you stop the spread of Lassa fever? We want people to know that rat is no longer a friend, there are other meats, why would you have to go and hunt rats for consumption?”
On his own, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, (ATBUTH), Dr. Alkali Mohammed confirmed that as at Wednesday, the hospital had three patients receiving treatment for Lassa fever.
Alkali Mohammed said that “yes, we have three people diagnosed and confirmed to have Lassa fever, they are presently recovering treatment at the isolation center of the hospital. We kept them there, treat and observe them to see how they are responding to treatment”.
He however assured that the hospital has enough drugs needed for the treatment of the patients advising people to immediately come as soon as they noticed symptoms of the disease for prompt medical attention.