Lassa fever is a Nigerian disease —DG, Institute of Medical Research, Prof Ujah

Posted by Theresa Moses | 25 February 2016 | 3,467 times

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Although health experts agree that the dreaded endemic Lassa fever is a Nigerian disease, which has claimed lives of thousands of its victims in the last 47 years, there is no vaccine available for its treatment in the country now or elsewhere in the world, except a drug known as rivalry.

The Director-General of Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, Prof Innocent Ujah, who disclosed this in an exclusive interview with News Express, said: “There’s already drug that’s being used, that’s rivalry, but we do not have vaccines to give like we give for polio, tuberculosis, petusis, measles, etc, but it will come. While we are waiting for that, there are preventive strategies to take.

“Fortunately, a lot of studies have been conducted. And, as a matter of fact, Prof Tomori has been on the fore-front of this research. Therefore, we’ve known what the disease is, and how it’s transmitted, and we know the epidemic characterisation, and we now know how to prevent the disease. This is exactly what it is all about at the moment. The cure of the disease has been produced: rivalry. Apart from that, we believe that prevention is better than cure; and it can easily be prevented through personal and environmental hygiene.”

Given the endemic nature of the disease, will current preventive and enlightenment campaign be enough to check further spread of Lassa fever?

The Professor noted: “I don’t think its enlightenment campaign. It’s a multi-plunge campaign where there’s surveillances, awareness creation, environmental hygiene.  And there’s so many things happening. We believe that when we get all these in place, we can control the disease. As a matter of fact, we have a committee called Lassa Fever Control Committee and I’m a member of that committee. We are putting all the components together: the information department and, of course, the dermatologists, technicians, etc, are there; it’s multi-spectral. The essence is to collate and use appropriate information and bring out ways to protect ourselves against likely transmitting the disease or acquiring the disease. We have to wear gloves for personal protection and ensure we do not contact the disease; reducing and treating cases as they occur. As a health worker, if you contact the disease, there’s a likelihood of transmitting to the next person. So we train health workers to ensure that they are capable of getting a value on our own.

 “We have what we call infection control programme. That’s what we teach in the hospitals, medical schools, nurses, etc. These are the ways to prevent the virus. And while we are waiting for vaccines to be produced, let’s use the preventive strategy which is the personal and environmental hygiene I talked about earlier; and also protection of our food items and, also, kill the rats. But while we are doing that, if anybody is infected, there’s rivalry that we use to treat. People should go to the hospital early.”

The NIMR D-G traced the genesis of the deadly fever: “Let me say that it’s not true that Lassa fever has been in Nigeria for 18 years. As a matter of fact, it is a Nigerian disease. It was discovered in Lassa village in Borno State, Nigeria, in 1969, about 47 years ago. And, ever since, it’s endemic in Nigeria and it’s been with us. It’s endemic but it has period of endemic form, which is during the dry season. As research has shown, it is carried by mamate rats, what we call mostomys matalensis. That is the rat that causes Lassa fever. The rat has multiple breasts, instead of one or two. This is the epidemical characterisation of the vector, in this case, the rat.”

•Photo shows NIMR DG, Prof. Innocent Ujah.


Source: News Express

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