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Lassa Fever Outbreak: Senate Summons Health Minister

Jan 14 2016
  • Calls for Public Enlightenment

Worried by the recent lassa fever outbreak that has claimed more than 40 lives across 12 states of the country, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Thursday called for corporate sponsorship of the enlightenment campaigns of the Ministry of Health.

This plea was put forth by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Lanre Tejuoso, while meeting with the Honourable Minister of Health and the leadership of the ministry, who were summoned two days ago by the Senate in a plenary session to brief the upper chamber of the recent outbreak and Government’s approach to curtailing the scourge

Observing how many corporate bodies (especially banks and telecommunication firms) usually took up paid advertisement spots on first pages (or other conspicuous spots) of major daily newspapers, Senator Tejuosho pleaded with various business bodies and corporate agencies to seize this opportunity to enlighten Nigerians about how to combat the lassa fever virus spread as corporate social responsibility.

In his presentation to the Senate Committee on health, the Honourable Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Folorunsho Adewole, described the current outbreak of the disease as a shameful one on the part of the Government because this was not the first time that such an outbreak had occurred but was only popular now because of the new Government administration.

The Minister who also showed that the current outbreak which began in August 2015 had so far resulted in 40 fatalities out of 441 cases across 12 States of the Federation and the FCT (17 of those deaths recorded in the village of Fuka, Niger State, because of some superstitious beliefs) noted that Nigeria actually had its worst lassa fever outbreak in 2012 (which saw 112 fatalities out of 1723 cases) and it was therefore worrisome that there had been no concrete proactive framework on ground to prevent further similar scenarios.

Professor Adewole proposed a multi- sectoral One Health framework that would require a synergy with other Federal Ministries such as the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment to prevent a future reoccurrence of the disease while also stating that the Ministry was currently, aggressively trying to revamp its primary health care system that would not only reduce pressure on the country’s Secondary and Tertiary Health institutions but would help to nip such cases in the bud. As for the Ministry’s response to the current outbreak, he said that a 4 pronged approach of prevention, surveillance, case management and control of transmission was already being implemented and that lassa fever is generally manageable until it leads to other complications such as end stage renal failure. He also said that although there was no vaccine for lassa fever, a candidate vaccine was currently undergoing clinical testing.

Reacting to his presentation, Senator Tejuoso told the Ministry that the Senate was in need of concrete action on the part of the Health Ministry and not just beautiful plans.

Another member of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Matthew Uroghide decried Nigeria’s lackadaisical attitude to the outbreak, reminding the Minister of how Nigeria reacted swiftly to the ebola epidemic in 2015 but seemed less active with the lassa fever outbreak and narrated how he watched the Chief Medical Director of the Irrua Specialist Hospital (one of the few emergency response centres) plead for funds on national television.

The Senate Committee also advocated for better funding and assistance of the country’s Centre for Disease Control.

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