Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has said the country experienced its largest ever reported outbreak of Lassa fever in 2018 with 23 of the 36 states of the federation affected.
He disclosed this during a briefing in Abuja, yesterday, lamenting that 50 years after the detection of the first Lassa fever case in Nigeria, the disease was still endemic in several parts of the country. He, however, said last year’s high numbes of Lassa fever infections brought the disease to the forefront of public discourse and encouraged discussions around lessons for future outbreaks. He further stated that the cases recorded in 2018 also raised several questions and pushed the Federal Government to think more about the research areas that must be strengthened for the country to control Lassa fever.
Against that backdrop, Ihekweazu announced that the center has developed a national Lassa fever research plan, carried out genetic sequencing to better understand the virus, and increased its diagnostics, surveillance, risk communications, coordination, and other capacities. He said, “In 2018, Nigeria experienced what we have described as the largest outbreak of Lassa fever in the country. We had confirmed cases in 21 states. Because the clinical course of the disease is so variable, detection of the disease in affected patients has been difficult. When presence of the disease is confirmed in a community, however, prompt isolation of affected patients, good infection prevention and control practices, and rigorous contact tracing can stop outbreaks.”
Ihekweazu further said the Lassa fever International Conference 2019 billed for January 16 and 17 in the FCT as part of activities to mark the 50th year since the Lassa virus was first discovered in the country, will provide an opportunity for the scientific community to reflect on what is known, describe gaps that exist and prioritize the research agenda for the future.