To research new treatments and a vaccine for Lassa fever, the Federal Government is now cooperating with the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
This information was presented at a three-day national case management training on Lassa fever by Health Minister Osagie Ehanire.
According to Ehanire, who was represented by Minister of State Joseph Nakama, the ministry chose to start improving its capacity in Lassa fever case management because “we know that doing so will go a long way in lowering mortality in these patients.”
“The first case of Lassa fever was identified in Nigeria more than 50 years ago. Some states had endemic diseases over the years, while others experienced yearly outbreaks.
The ministry collaborates with the CEPI and WHO to explore new treatments and a vaccine for Lassa fever.
“Over the last five years, the country has seen a substantial increase in the number of confirmed Lassa fever cases, including infections among healthcare workers, underscoring the need to develop skills to effectively handle cases when they arise,” he said.
He asserts that the ministry is committed to maintaining the decrease in the case fatality rate from the 2021 value of 20,5% to the 2022 value of 19,8%.
Such an effort, he said, would continue up until Nigerians are no longer at risk from Lassa disease.
“The country has learned from the recent COVID-19 pandemic that it cannot afford to disregard or minimize efforts made to treat and reduce high-risk viral infections like Lassa fever.
Globalization “may easily lead to the spread of the disease to non-endemic nations, in addition to it mutating and posing a new hazard,” he warned.
According to Ehanire, the nation has made progress in its ability to diagnose Lassa fever as well as in the sequencing of the virus genome to keep track of the number of circulating Lassa viruses.
The focus on infection prevention and control methods among healthcare personnel, he claimed, was another indication of the nation’s dedication to lowering infection rates in healthcare facilities.
Now that we know that doing so will significantly lower mortality in these patients, we aim to expand case management capability.
“This training is a component of the government’s endeavor to further lower mortality from Lassa fever; the ministry hasn’t achieved this level of success by tackling epidemics of the disease on its own.
“WHO has played a crucial role in their assistance. Their assistance to the nation has included everything from educating and training medical personnel to give treatment centers supplies for infection control, he said.
The minister stated that in addition to national and state-level emergency operations centers, the WHO supported public awareness campaigns, surveillance, and epidemic response at the local level.
He claimed that the management of patients with Lassa Fever had been a top priority for many years at the Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital.
Despite several obstacles, Ehanire claimed that the organizations had also established themselves as centers of excellence for the treatment of viral hemorrhagic fevers.
He claims that since ISTH got involved actively, case management has significantly improved.
Before the involvement of stakeholders, he claimed, blood samples had to be transferred to South Africa and Europe for confirmation testing, with results taking weeks or months to come back.
According to Ehanire, the institute’s activities have expanded from clinical case management to include extensive epidemiological investigations in research.
He declared that Nigeria would be in charge of the Integration Consortium, which had been launched at the training, and would collaborate with other nations and the WHO to define and prepare centers for clinical trials.
“We must not lose sight of the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing and that some individuals may have both Lassa fever and COVID-19 concurrently and have problems from both.
“These patients require special care, and prompt decision-making is essential in this regard.
“As a nation, we have achieved enormous strides in solving COVID-19, which are widely acknowledged.
All teaching hospitals, federal medical centers, and specialty hospitals now have molecular laboratories, he claimed.
In the same vein, he claims that these facilities now have up-to-date intensive care units, well-equipped isolation facilities, and Personal Protective Equipment.
He declared, “This government is committed to dealing with Lassa fever in the same way that we have dealt with COVID-19 so far.
Reducing mortality in Lassa fever patients and increasing capacity for case management was the focus of the workshop, according to Dr. Sylvanus Okogbenin, Chief Medical Director of Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital.
He claims that to lower mortality rates from Lassa fever disease, the ministry wants to develop a critical mass of skilled clinicians and healthcare professionals with the ability to manage cases.
According to Okogbenin, Nigeria has had annual outbreaks of public health concern and has recently registered the greatest prevalence.
According to him, Lassa fever was given top priority by WHO in 2018 as a highly contagious disease that required immediate research and treatment, including the development of a vaccine.
According to Okogbenin, the Nigeria Centers for Disease Control recorded 829 confirmed cases and 160 deaths, or 19.3%, in week 26 of 2022.
“A particularly concerning issue is healthcare worker infection and death.
“53 healthcare workers have died this year after contracting an infection. According to him, this session will also include infection and death prevention for healthcare workers.
According to Okogbenin, the workshop would give close attention to the problems facing expectant mothers who have Lassa fever sickness.
“Several healthcare personnel across the nation were infected during cesarean sections in 2022 alone due to missing diagnosis in pregnant women,” he claimed.
The training will benefit the nation, according to Prof. Stephan Gunther of the Bernard Notch Institute of Tropical Medicine and Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Bernard Notch Institute.
Lassa fever, according to Gunther, is always particularly challenging to treat in the advanced stages of the illness, since so many patients will pass away.
He claimed that the nation needs to understand how to handle cases of Lassa fever.
“The training will assist the medical personnel in correctly handling Lassa fever cases to lessen the spread of the virus in Nigeria.
According to Dr. Walteri Mulombo, WHO Country Representative for Nigeria, Lassa fever has been an issue for almost 15 years and has claimed a significant number of victims.
Mutombo claims that the training will cover topics such as case management, how individuals are treated, the medications they are given, the timeliness of the treatment, and the best management methods.