The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, says Federal Government will soon establish a special laboratory to boost the testing capacity of Lassa fever in the country.
Ehanire said this while fielding questions from journalists in Abuja on Friday, on capacity of the existing laboratories to test the volume of samples from across the country.
Nigeria has five special laboratories strategically located to test Lassa fever in Ondo, Edo, Abuja, Lagos and Ebonyi states.
The laboratories are located at Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC) National Reference Laboratory in Abuja, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo, Federal Medical Centre Owo in Ondo State, Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki and Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
The minister explained that the new laboratory would make it the 6th special laboratory so that the fever could be treated in most tertiary hospitals in the country.
He added that “we have five laboratories where Lassa fever can be diagnosed and we are in the process of getting the sixth one, courtesy of West African Health Organisation (WAHO).
“We want to place the new laboratory strategically so that the distance of getting samples to the laboratory is minimal just as we have other laboratories strategically located across the country.
“We are not going to use sentiment in establishing the new one, we will leave it for NCDC to decide since they are going to be the one to be doing the testing.”
Ehanire said that the Federal Government was working toward supporting the National Laboratory Network to facilitate easy diagnosis of any viral disease in the country.
He noted that Federal Ministry of Health was also working with stakeholders to upgrade a laboratory in Kano to add to the number of existing laboratories.
The minister, however, said that the Irrua Research Specialist Hospital was working on developing a vaccine to address the Lassa fever problem. He said that a team was working on the first stage of the process, saying; “ the team has made a lot of progress.’’
According to him, a lot of work is being done on Lassa fever and the country has reduced fatality rate from 30 per cent to 14 per cent.
The Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, advised journalists against misinformation. He added that the centre had been proactive in releasing timely information to the public through social and conventional media.
He said “please, confirm any information before publishing, we are always available to answer your questions.”
Meanwhile, 472 cases and 70 deaths of Lassa fever were recorded in the country as at Feb. 11, 2020 since the outbreak of the disease. The overall Fatality Rate for the fever stands at 14.8 per cent in 2020, lower than the 18.7 per cent recorded during the same period in 2019.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Lassa fever is a viral infection carried by the multimammate rat, one of the most common mice in equatorial Africa found across most parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
The illness was first discovered in Nigeria when two missionary nurses got infected with the virus in 1969. Since then, it has become a disease that Nigeria contends with every year.