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Nigeria is responding to an outbreak of Lassa fever that has spread to 19 out of the 36 states and FCT. As at 3rd of February 2019, there were 275 confirmed cases and 57 deaths recorded.
A Lassa fever national emergency was declared on January 21, 2019, and Rapid Response Teams (RRT) were deployed to high burden states (Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Plateau and Bauchi) to support the response. Given the level of response initiated and preparedness activities, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) convened a review meeting on the 15th of February 2019, to discuss the first three weeks of response.
The goal of the meeting was to discuss response activities and ensure alignment with all stakeholders involved. The specific objectives were to review the existing response approach, share lessons learnt and identify key opportunities for improvement and collaboration.
Updates provided by the NCDC Lassa fever Emergency Operations Centre response pillars highlighted the significant improvement in the 2019 response as evident by the early decline in the number of cases when compared to 2018 outbreak.
These improvements have been attributed to various factors including the early deployment of One Health national RRTs inclusive of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and Federal Ministry of Environment (FMoE); deployment of surge staff to the overwhelmed treatment centres; reduced laboratory turn-around time; EOC establishment in the high burden and other states; establishment of more Lassa fever treatment centres; enforcement of environmental sanitation, introduction of the Infection Prevention and Control ring strategy and operational research into response activities etc.
Some of the recommendations include institutionalization of the IPC at the state and health facilities levels, genetic sequencing of family and health care workers infection for validation of human to human transmission; use of SORMAS for contact tracing and case management; improvement of stock management at the state level; introduction of psychosocial care in all treatment centres and for contacts of confirmed cases; high level advocacy to States to addressed ownership and sustainability at the lower levels, documentation of pillar response activities and leveraging on existing community networks such as polio network, community leaders and religious leaders for risk communication and social mobilisation activities.
The outcomes of this meeting will support the improvement of response activities, guide preparedness for future outbreaks and drive control/prevention measures for the disease.
As we respond to the outbreak, it is important for States to continue to strengthen their preparedness and review their response activities as well. The revised Lassa fever case management guidelines are available on the NCDC website: www.ncdc.gov.ng