In August 2015, Nigeria experienced a Lassa fever – acute viral haemorrhagic fever – outbreak. In its rapid emergency response to the outbreak, the Ministry of Health adopted the double strategy of treating those affected by the outbreak, as well as carrying out sensitization to raise Nigerians’ awareness about the disease. Consequently, in 2016, NOI Polls in partnership with EpiAfric conducted an opinion survey to ascertain Nigerians’ perception regarding the Lassa fever disease. The survey sought to determine their level of awareness of the disease, its symptoms and mode of transmission, as well as their awareness on possible preventive measures.
On the backdrop of the 2016 Lassa Fever Virus Disease Opinion survey, NOI Polls in partnership with EpiAFRIC conducted another opinion survey to assess Nigerians’ level of awareness, with the singular aim of comparing results from both surveys in order to determine how the awareness of Nigerians has changed between 2016 and 2018.
A total of 1000 respondents were interviewed in both the 2016 and 2018 surveys, respectively. All geopolitical zones were represented in the survey; the proportion of male and female respondents was almost equal; age group surveyed spanned 18 – 60+ years; respondents were traders, civil servants, National Youth Service Corp members and religious leaders.
The 2018 survey revealed a sustained high level of awareness about the outbreak though with a percentage drop compared with the 2016 survey. Radio provided the most awareness, a sharp contrast to the previous survey where TV topped the list of sources of awareness about the disease. Rat infected food remained the most identified source of infection even though it dropped from the number of respondents who identified it as the most source of infection. In general, the 2018 survey results reveal a widespread decline in Nigerians’ perception of the Lassa Fever disease. There is also a 15 percent decline in respondents’ level of confidence in their local hospitals and a 9 percent drop in respondents’ perception of the sensitization efforts being carried out by the Ministry of Health on the Lassa Fever disease.
The most recent weekly epidemiological report by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) shows “913 suspected cases of Lassa Fever reported from across 17 states. Of this, 272 cases have been confirmed positive and 54 deaths recorded giving a case fatality rate (CFR) of 21%”.
Following the increasing number of Lassa fever cases reported from several States across the country, the NCDC has activated its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate the response to the outbreak on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health. To show its commitment to working with agencies and partners to ensure that this outbreak is brought under control, the NCDC is collaborating with several organisations to support the response in the affected States.
To further demonstrate government’s commitment, to tackling the challenges facing the health sector, an emergency council of health meeting with the aim to deliberate on the state of public health in Nigeria, was organised by the federal ministry of health. The council approved 12 key resolutions (attached) which will be implemented across all states in Nigeria.
Results from the 2016 and 2018 surveys indicate that awareness of Lassa Fever, as well as awareness of mode of transmission and what to do to prevent the disease, is high. Unfortunately, this does not seem to translate to behavioural changes. Foods are still being dried in the open and people still exhibit poor attitudes to refuse disposal. Health education at the community level, behavioural change communication and proper waste management is effective primary prevention measures. Health workers must observe the strictest standards of infection prevention and control protocols in handling patients suspected of being infected. They must adopt the test and treat practice especially when they suspect a patient has malaria.
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