Medical practitioners at the Lassa Fever Research Centre at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State, have said that Lassa fever has been spreading in the country because authorities have not given the disease the attention it requires.
According to doctors at the institute, although Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria, it has largely been ignored.
“Since 1969, Lassa fever became known as a clinical entity and now we are in 2016 many people are still not aware, the drugs are still largely unavailable, and vaccines are not available unlike other diseases that have had serious attention,” one of the doctors said.
Asides highlighting funding as a big challenge, the officials who conducted Channels Television round the foremost and only Lassa fever research institute in the country have asked the government to set up more diagnostic centres across the country.
“Since 2007, we have been making a case repeatedly for the establishment of centres of this nature in the other geopolitical zones or health zones in the country because Nigeria is a vast country.
“You don’t want a situation where patients with viral haemorrhagic fevers – Lassa fever are managed in ordinary wards and facilities. You want dedicated facilities for them.
“As we speak, sadly, I am not aware that these centre have attained any stage for replication elsewhere in the country,” said Professor George Akpede.
The idea for the Lassa Fever Research Centre in Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital was born after a family in Ekpoma, also in Edo State was almost wiped out by the disease.
The Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Sylvannus Okogbenin, said that the disease was endemic in Ekpoma and many other communities in Edo State.
“We think it is endemic in Ekpoma. It may also be endemic in many other communities in Nigeria but if there is no index of suspicion or if tests have not been done in that community, you may not know what is causing the fevers and the deaths,” he said.
Since November 2015, 19 positive cases have been confirmed at the laboratory in the research centre.
The Edo State government has confirmed that one person has died from Lassa fever disease.
The state’s Commissioner for Health, Dr Heregie Aihanuwa, said that the dead person was among the five persons that were brought to the Irrua Specialist Hospital for showing symptoms of Lassa fever disease.