It is 47 years since the first case of Lassa fever was identified in Nigeria. In this space of time, Nigeria has experienced almost yearly outbreaks of this disease which has led to hundreds of death across the country. The 2015/2016 Lassa Fever outbreak has received a lot of attention, probably due to heightened awareness of hemorrhagic fevers stemming out of the recent Ebola outbreak. On the other hand however, the current outbreak has recorded higher case fatality rate than what was recorded in the past.
As at 18th January, 2016 the Lassa Fever outbreak has recorded 212 suspected cases from 17 states. 41 of these are confirmed cases of Lassa Fever recorded from 13 states, while 23 deaths have been recorded from the confirmed cases.
In order to tackle this outbreak definitively, the Federal Ministry of Health called an emergency National Council on Health (NCH) meeting in Abuja on 19th January 2016. The meeting was attended by stakeholders of health in Nigeria. It was chaired by the Honorable Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, and had the participation of all national health related MDAs, Commissioners of Health from the 36 states across Nigeria, the Secretary of Health FCT, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, World Bank, US CDC, and other development partners.
The highlight of the meeting was the inauguration of the Lassa Fever Eradication Committee (LFEC) which will be chaired by Prof. Oyewole Tomori, a professor of virology and co-discoverer of the Lassa Fever Virus. Among the Terms of Reference of the committee is to ensure rapid containment of the current Lassa Fever outbreak and prevent future occurrence. The committee is equally expected to:
Appraise the epidemiological situation of the past and current lassa fever epidemics in Nigeria.
Develop jointly with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH)/Nigeria center for Disease Control (NCDC), an effective response plan for fighting and preventing the spread of Lassa fever in Nigeria;
Avail professional advice to NCDC and FMOH to arrest current and future Lassa fever outbreaks;
Provide a holistic guidance on “One-health’’ approach to prevention of Haemorraghic fever outbreaks;
Galvanize financial support and goodwill from other stakeholders and development partners;
To implement the strategic plan under the guidance of the Honourable Minister of Health;
Advise the Hon. Minister of Health on the emergency operation and activities carried out in highly infected states; and
Undertake any other assignment that may be decided by the Hon. Minister of Health from time-to-time.
The members of the committee are:
Prof. Oyewole Tomori (Chairman)
Redeemer’s University, Ede
Prof. A. Nasidi (Secretary/Member)
Nigerian Center for Disease Control, Abuja
Prof. Sunday Omilabu (Member)
College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, Idi-Araba
Prof. George Akpede (Member)
Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irua
Prof. Clara Ejembi (Member)
Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria
Prof. Zubairu Ilyasu (Member)
Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano
Dr. Pelumi Adebiyi (Member)
University College Hospital, Ibadan
Prof. Christopher Obionu (Member)
University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu
Prof. Innocent Ujah (Member)
Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, Yaba
Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor (Member)
Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma
Dr. (Mrs.) Egejuru Eze (Member)
Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Abuja
Dr. Daniel Iya (Member)
Commissioner for Health, Nassarawa State
Mrs. Gold Idehen R.I. (Member)
Federal Ministry of Education
Mr. Emmanuel Agbegir (Member)
Federal Ministry of Information & Culture
Representing Director Public Health, Dr. E. Ngige (Member)
Federal Ministry of Health
Abonyi Dominic (Member)
Environmental Health Officers Registration Council
Dr. Sunny Asogun (Member)
Lassa Fever Research, Irrua Specialist Hospital, Irrua
Mr. Akin Fadeyi (Member)
Representative, Federal Ministry of Environment (Member)
The Nigerian Center for Disease Control is the secretariat of committee.
At the NCH, affected states gave a situation report of their activities towards containing the outbreak. One consistent challenge was the logistics of transporting samples to the laboratories in Irrua and Lagos; and also capacities to manage cases. The minister reminded all states that there are 6 reference laboratories across the country and plans are on to increase that to 14, with priority given to Lassa fever endemic states.