Lassa fever: Never handle rats with bare hands, dead or alive, NMA warns

…explains preventive measures

By Hassan Zaggi

Following the ongoing outbreak of Lassa fever in the country and the resultant and deadly effect, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), has advised Nigerians not to handle rats with bare hands either dead or alive.

It would be recalled that, at least, 29 people have died (including 2 doctors and a pregnant woman) across 15 states as a result of the disease.

In a statement signed by the Association’s President and General Secretary, Dr Francis Faduyile and Dr Olumuyiwa Odusote, respectively, the NMA reiterated the need for the practice of good personal hygiene by frequent washing of hands with soap under running water/or use of hand sanitizers when appropriate.

The group further noted that: “Precautions must also be taken when caring for sick relations and loved ones with the use of gloves, and avoiding contact with the body fluid (urine, vomitus, faeces and blood) of the sick.

“All medical and dental practitioners and healthcare professionals in general must have high index of suspicion.

“In addition to basic infection prevention and control measures, extra precaution should be taken whenever a patient presents with the symptoms especially the ‘wet symptoms’; vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding. The need to insist on appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) cannot be overemphasized.

“Healthcare practitioners should be cautious of the display of heroism especially in the absence of the basics required for care especially appropriate Personal Protective Equipment or in case of lack of the needed skill.

“This is pivotal to prevent transmission or break the chain of transmission in healthcare facility setting and prevent avoidable deaths.”
The NMA however, regretted that: “The current epidemic, like other outbreaks, is a reflection of the abysmally low level of preparedness in handling infectious diseases especially viral hemorrhagic fever at all levels of healthcare delivery.

“The frequency of the outbreaks also gives credence to the deplorable state of healthcare delivery in Nigeria.”

The Association therefore, called on the federal government government and all stakeholders to join hands together to ensure the speedy and full implementation of the National Health Act 2014, increase the budgetary allocation to the health sector to 15% of the annual budget in line with the minimum benchmark recommended by the Abuja Declaration of 2001, insisting that all must also be committed to the revamping of the primary healthcare system.

The NMA therefore, “appeal to health authorities at all levels to prioritize the capacity building of healthcare professionals on standard infection prevention and control measures and ensure the provision of basic disinfectants and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment in healthcare facilities, and call on corporate organizations, NGOs and religious organizations to work with Government and the NMA in intensifying ongoing public enlightenment campaign and ensure that all Nigerians are educated especially those at the rural communities on preventive strategies and prompt care seeking.”

In order to prevent the disease, the NMA said: “Ensure proper sanitation , that is, keep your environment clean at all times, block all holes in your house to prevent entry of rats; cover your dustbins and dispose refuse properly.

“Communities should setup dump sites very far from their homes to reduce contact with rodents; store foodstuffs in containers which are well covered with tight fitting lids and avoid eating foods and fruits that have been eaten by rats; avoid drying foodstuff outside on the floor, roadside where it will be exposed to contamination; avoid bush burning which can lead to displacement of rats from bushes to human dwellings.”

While calling on Nigerians to always seek for medical attention whenever they are having abnormal feelings, the NMA said the symptoms of Lassa fever include fever, headache, general body weakness, malaise, muscle pain, redness of the eyes, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, chest pain, unexplained bleeding (from the mouth, nose, anus, other routes and into the skin), convulsion etc.

“Nigerians are advised to go to the nearest health facility in case of any of these symptoms and others requiring medical attention,” the Association reiterated.

The Nigerian Medical Association, therefore, commiserated with families of Nigerians who died during the current outbreak.

“We also wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the Chairman and members of the NMA, Kano state branch and the families of the 2 doctors that lost their lives as a result of lassa fever virus infection in the course of the duty of care at the Amino Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano,” the statement noted.

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