Since 1969 when Lassa fever was first reported in Lassa village, Borno State, the disease has remained endemic in Nigeria. Every year, the country battles to contain the spread of the disease, which occurs mainly in the dry season between the months of November and May. No vaccine has been developed to tackle the disease, 51 years on. What the country has achieved so far is the creation of three main treatment centres at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo; Federal Medical Centre, Owo and Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki. This has resulted in near knee-jerk approach towards curbing the transmission of the infection at the turn of each year, but without the desirable outcome most times.
Records show that in 2018, the country experienced a huge outbreak in 23 states involving 3,498 suspects. Six hundred and thirty-three cases were confirmed among whom were 45 health workers. In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported 327 cases of the disease (324 confirmed cases and three probable cases) across 20 states of the federation and the FCT. The disease killed 72 people in that year.
This year, the disease has already claimed 43 lives. The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, confirmed this while addressing a press conference in Abuja last Tuesday. According to him, “as of January 28, 2020, a total of 258 confirmed cases, 41 deaths have been reported in 19 states with a majority of the cases being Ebonyi, Edo and Ondo states.”