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Lassa fever: NCDC says it did not shun Edo’s call for support

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THE Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has debunked the claim by the Edo State government that it shunned its call for support against Lassa Fever outbreak in the state.

In response to The ICIR’s enquiry on the allegation, the Centre’s Director General Ifedayo Adetifa, a doctor, said the claim was untrue. 

At the first Executive Council meeting of the Edo State government on January 18, 2023, the Edo state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, alleged that the Federal Government abandoned the state with the disease.

He accused the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, a medical doctor, who hails from the state, and agencies of the Federal Government, including the NCDC and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, of failing to heed the state’s plea for support to confront the Lassa fever outbreak.

Nehikhare said the state had over 50 persons infected with Lassa fever as at January 18. 

He noted that experts warned that the case fatality rate in the state was five per cent. He also argued that the warning was a sufficient reason to be deeply worried and the reason it raised the alarm for help.

The state government called on the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other agencies within the global health ecosystem with a mandate to intervene in infectious disease outbreaks to come to its aid.

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“This call has become necessary as the Federal Government of Nigeria has clearly abandoned Edo State and our people in the fight against Lassa Fever that is spreading at an alarming rate.”

Debunking the allegation, the NCDC DG explained that the Centre continued to work with the Federal Government to offer material and technical support to all states with Lassa fever, especially high-burden states like Edo.

Adetifa maintained that healthcare remained a collective responsibility of governments at all levels. 

“While the NCDC, as the country’s national public health institute, has the mandate to lead the prevention, preparedness, and response to public health emergencies, states also have statutory responsibilities for planning and delivery of preventive and curative health services to their citizenry.

“At the end of November 2022 and ahead of the projected rise of Lassa fever cases, the NCDC prepositioned supplies for case management, infection prevention and control, laboratory diagnosis, etc., in all historical Lassa fever hotspots, including Edo State. All these supplies, including their delivery, are provided at no cost by the Federal Government and Federal Ministry of Health through the NCDC.”

He said since 2017, working through the Lassa Fever Technical Working Group (TWG), the NCDC had been offering support to all states responding to Lassa fever, especially the high-burden states – Edo, Ebonyi and Ondo. 

Support offered includes capacity building and training of healthcare workers on infection prevention and control, as well as clinician training on Lassa fever case management (including the provision of Ribavirin, consumables such as intravenous fluids, and antibiotics among others).

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Adetifa said the NCDC got a request from the Edo State Commissioner of Health, Obehi Akoria, a professor, asking for more consumables to support the state’s response to the disease and had delivered the products.

The World Health Organization defines Lassa fever as an acute viral haemorrhagic illness transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces. 

Multiple reports by the NCDC in Nigeria have shown Edo and Ondo states leading the outbreak and mortality charts of the disease.

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Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's the ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022. Contact him via email @ mfatunmole@icirnigeria.org.

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