Two doctors have died at the University College Hospital after they contract Lassa fever in the course of treating a patient in a private hospital in Oyo state.
The doctors, who had recently opened their private hospital outside Ibadan, died on the 28th of February and the other 2nd of March at UCH after coming in contact with a Lassa fever index case.
Oyo State Commissioner for health, Dr Taiwo Oladipo who confirmed the death of the 2 doctors from Lassa fever, declared the state ministry of health had already located their contracts and placed them in isolation.
Dr Ladipo said that most of the contacts were from the same private health care facility where they doctors work and Oyo state ministry of health had stated given them prophylactic drug for Lassa fever.
According to him, the blood sample of the patient the doctors treated that is suspected to have Lassa fever as well as other blood samples taken within the same period at the private hospital had been sent for Lassa fever test at the laboratory.
“Once the result come out, we should be able to know if it’s from the patient they got the infection from and we will be able to follow up with the patient and other contacts to make sure it doesn’t get to others.”
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Just Ladipo said the ministry had issued an advisory to ensure medical professionals across the state also maintain an high index of suspicion and know how to handle patients that come with unexplained fever at times bleeding from orifices.
He added: “we are trying as much as much possible to educate the medical professionals and to ensure that they observe universal precautions.
The commissioner said that given that Lassa fever is transmitted by rodents, the general public should make sure their food items are covered and also maintain a clean environment.
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He added that with human transmission of Lassa fever established, the public should be careful how they handle individuals with unexplained fever and extreme weakness but take such people to recognized hospitals.
Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association, Oyo State, Dr Ayotunde Fasunla said “While we thought that COVID-19 had done its worst, we are now dealing with another onslaught of a Lassa fever outbreak.
“ Furthermore, we are worried about other health workers who have had contact with the disease unknowingly. We have advised them to quarantine and report if they develop any symptoms of viral haemorrhagic fever.”
He asked its members treat all febrile illnesses with a high index of suspicion, be cautious and vigilant at all times, not only for the sake of their health and safety but also in the interest of the patients and public health.
Dr Fasunla appeal to the management of health institutions in the State to make the PPEs readily available, as well as soap and running water for hand-washing immediately after attending to patients, to protect healthcare workers from contracting transmissible infections.
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He called on Oyo state government to conduct intensive surveillance and sensitization on Lassa fever outbreaks in affected communities as well as across all LGAs in the state.
Meanwhile, UCH, Ibadan management in a letter dated March 2nd to all its clinical heads of department asked that it’s staff maintain have a high index of suspicion, particularly at the entry points of the hospital – emergency wards, clinics and general outpatient.
According to the hospital, “Detailed history of travel and contact with a sick or dead person is important while assessing all suspected cases using the standard case definition for Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers.
“Standard universal precautions should be observed while giving care, and when handling blood and body secretions of suspected patients. Proper hand washing, use of PPE, and safe disposal of wastes are essential for effective prevention and control of spread. Efforts should also be made to reduce the number of caregivers to suspected patient.”
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the most affected States are Ondo, Edo and Bauchi. Since the beginning of 2022, a total number of 1,992 suspected Lassa fever cases have been recorded in 33 States, majorly in Ondo, Edo, Bauchi, Benue, Taraba, Ebonyi, OYO and Enugu States. As at 18th February 2022, the total number of confirmed cases was 450, with 86 deaths recorded. About 30 health care workers are affected.