Five persons have been confirmed dead in Benue state following an outbreak of Lassa fever in the state. National Center for Disease Control which confirmed the death noted that 21 suspected cases of Lassa fever was received from the state out of which eight cases were confirmed while five infected persons have also died. Programs Officer, Risk Communications Desk, National Center for Disease Control, Mrs. Hanatu Bello disclosed this to newsmen in a chat on Friday in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
According to Mrs. Hanatu Bello “Since the beginning of the year, there have been 21 suspected cases of Lassa fever in Benue State. Eight cases were confirmed after laboratory tests and five deaths have so far been recorded.” While noting that the Center received the information late as most patients who presented the symptoms got to the hospital rather late, Bello said as soon as the information was received, the rapid response unit of the center swung into action to nip the situation in the bud.
“Lassa fever, though preventable, must be treated early. Lassa fever is caused by the body fluids of rats and once these body fluids contaminates our utensils, it can cause infection. Infected persons can also infect others and it only takes a few days to show signs and symptoms such as fever, sore throats, bloody diarrhea, bleeding from the gums, bleeding into skin, eyes and urine,” she noted. Bello who noted that as at today, the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH) is the only medical facility that is attending to Lassa fever patients, however urged the general public to be proactive by observing their personal and environmental hygiene especially hand washing.
“We must encourage people to wash their hands properly by observing the five steps of hand washing. Hand washing mush be with running water and not static water before cooking, after the use of toilet and while attending to sick people, before and after attending to cuts or wounds. We must discourage people from keeping trash in their house and we must constantly keep our surroundings clean and we must keep our trash bins covered so that they don’t attract rodents. We must also block rat holes in our house. Raw foodstuffs should also be properly covered,” she said.
Bello who stated that the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) had already been activated in the state said the Center was in Benue to respond to the Lassa fever outbreak in the state and also to a strange illness in Okpokwu local government area.