Lassa fever: Gombe records first case

Rebecca Mu'azu, Gombe

The Gombe State Ministry of Health has confirmed one case of Lassa fever in the State, involving an eight year old girl from Lambam Village of Yamaltu Deba Local Government Area.

Speaking to journalists in Gombe, the Director of Public Health at the Ministry, Dr. Joshua Abubakar, said the case was confirmed after seven suspected samples from Gombe, were tested in Lagos, out of which five came out negative and one other case was still pending.

Dr. Abubakar said the infected girl had been isolated and was doing well, but that investigations were being conducted to know the source of the infection.

“For this case that came from Lambam, we are trying to investigate. Is it really from Lambam the girl got it, or, because there was no history of that, the girl does not travel? We are trying to establish, whether somebody in the family travelled. And from investigation the father is a drive who travels around. So we are trying to link the relationship. Possibly we will take his blood sample and send. We will see anti-bodies for Lassa, if he was the one that was infected,” Dr Abubakar said.

The Director of the Public Health in Gombe has however asked the government for a permanent isolation ward, which should be located outside town, to prevent mass infection and spread in a case of an epidemic.

Bauchi Taraba, and now Gombe are three states in North Eastern Nigeria that have confirmed cases of Lassa fever.

The Chief Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Jalingo, Dr. Wiza Inusa, said Tababa State had recorded over five deaths, discharged five patients and four others still undergoing treatment at an isolated ward at the hospital.

However in Gombe State, the first case has just been confirmed and another one is yet to be confirmed, out of the seven blood samples tested for the disease.

Rapid Response

The Director of Public Health at the Gombe State Ministry of Health, Dr. Joshua Abubakar, said the government was not leaving anything to chance, hence the rapid mobilization of a response team and community mobilization to cut off all channels of the disease becoming an epidemic.

“We have to be very careful, we have to be very proactive, we have to go out, especially to the communities and all the relations that came with her during the management or that managed her at home before. So we have to keep watch to see whether they have developed. We have to even take their temperatures. So already what we did yesterday was to invite all our members of our Emergency Preparedness and Response. We also reactivated our Rapid Response Team, which we’ll be able to go to the communities, to go to hospitals,” said Dr. Abubakar.

On the media campaign going on that the general public should avoid eating garri, Dr. Abubakar, says the reason is because garri is consumed raw and when rat droppings or urine poured on it during its processing and storage, there is the high risk of a consumer getting infected.

“We are not saying that gari has a risk, but sometimes in the process of preparing gari, when they spread the gari along the road or near their houses to dry. Now when you dry the gari, rats may come and feed on it and they may pass their urine and defecate. If you pack that portion where there is urine and you soak, soaking, not cooking, definitely, you may have the disease.

According to Dr. Abubakar, Lassa fever is usually recorded about this time due the farm produce being harvested, which the rats follow home to feed on.

He however said the particular rat with multiple breasts carry the virus that leads to Lassa fever.

Dr. Abubakar said that particular rat had the capability to reproduce so many young rats within a short time.

He therefore said the most effective way of preventing the disease was when the environment was clean and free of rats, because they transmit the disease.