Lassa fever claims 9 lives in Benue

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By Sunday Ogli, Makurdi

An outbreak of Lassa fever has claimed nine lives across seven local government areas in Benue State.

The state Commissioner of Health, Dr Yanmar Ortese, who confirmed this in a telephone chat on Thursday, said he was in a meeting with the Director General of Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC and has presented the matter for discussion.

He explained that some of these cases were discovered at the IDPs camps in the state and among health workers.

The state epidemiologist, Dr Terungwa Ngishe, said at the moment, the state has 46 cases of Lassa spread across seven local government areas.

The local government areas include: Obi, Okpokwu, Gwer West, Makurdi, Guma, Gwer East and Ukum.

He said: “It’s actually an increase compared to what we had last year.”

“So far, we have nine deaths in confirmed cases as we speak. We have been able to bury all these deaths in accordance with safe burial protocols across the various areas of state where they hail from.

“We have sustained a response through the intervention of the Federal Government, World Bank and NCDC.

“They have spoken loudly to enhance our surveillance efforts, risk communication (creating social behaviour change) in the community; they have also spoken to the laboratory component of the response and co-ordinations.

“Now, we are hoping to reduce the numbers of the deaths such that the key fatality rate for the state is less than 10 percent which is what the national expects from all of the state.

“For now, what we have is above that figure”, he said.

Dr Ngishe further disclosed that the first case of the current lassa fever outbreak was noticed in week 50 of last year.

“As you know generally that there is a shortage of personnel and Benue State is not exempted. However we are looking forward to such a capacity of staff that will join and help us is the course of response.

“We have reported cases in the IDP camps, precisely Ortese and we took several samples as well from the host community but we did not pick any other positive case from the samples taken.

“However, there is active surveillance going on in the community as you know that the IDP camp is a cluster setting with very poor infection control in terms of poor sanitation, crowded environment and they have issues of malnutrition”, he added.