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After 129 deaths, NCDC ends Lassa Fever emergency

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Godsgift Onyedinefu

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has announced the end of the emergency phase of the 2019 Lassa fever outbreak.

The Director General (DG), NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu in a statement on Thursday said that the Lassa fever case count has significantly declined in the past seven weeks and has now dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency.

“This year, there was also a decline in case fatality rate of Lassa fever, from 27% in 2018 to 22% in 2019.”

Ihekweazu recalled that On the 22nd of January 2019, the NCDC activated a national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate response activities which was in response to an increase in Lassa fever cases at the beginning of the year.

The DG said the NCDC, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMEnv), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), and partners coordinated by WHO Nigeria, has led response activities across the country

According to Ihekweazu, 578 confirmed cases including 129 deaths have been recorded from 21 states as at 26th of May 2019 since the beginning of the outbreak.

He said the decision to declare emergency on  the outbreak over followed a joint epidemiological review by the NCDC, and the World Health Organisation in Nigeria (WHO Nigeria).

The DG however said despite the end of the emergency phase of thr outbreak, sporadic cases may continue to be reported in endemic areas/hotspots.

He said the the agency will now coordinate preparedness and response activities through a multi-sectoral Lassa fever Technical Working Group.

Ihekweazu explained that group’s focus is to continue monitoring cases, as well as improve disease prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and response activities across all levels in Nigeria.

He also assured that the agency will continue to improve its knowledge, preparedness and response to Lassa fever outbreaks.

“Given that Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria, it is likely that the country will continue to record cases of Lassa fever. However, we have several research strategies to improve our knowledge of the disease.

“We are also working with states and partners to establish more long-term strategies such as improved risk communication, infection prevention and control, regular environmental sanitation, enhanced capacity of health workers and improvement of treatment centres among others”.

The  statement also quoted the Officer-in-Charge of the World Health Organization in Nigeria, Clement Peter-Lasuba as saying, “The WHO remains committed to working with the Government of Nigeria and other partners to sustain and improve Nigeria’s capacity to detect, prepare for and respond to Lassa fever outbreaks including implementing a Lassa fever research plan and other control strategies”.

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