Start Fund responds to Lassa fever in Nigeria
ALIMA implements a response to an outbreak of Lassa fever in Southern Nigeria
In January, the Start Fund was alerted to an outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria, 350 people were reported to have been infected. The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) has been awarded Start Funds to respond to the crisis on the ground and are targeting three areas which have been most affected; Ondo, Edo and Ebonyi.
ALIMA posted an update on its activities in Nigeria. Its project is estimated to reach approximately 29,720 people and will end on 1st March 2018.
The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) activated its Emergency Operations Centre following the increasing number of reported Lassa fever cases. The current number of suspected cases is more than double the average annual caseload recorded in previous years.
“Our first priorities are to support the NCDC, Federal and State Ministries of Health to reinforce health facilities, protect and train hospital staff, improve case management and facilitate actions in the community to control the transmission of the disease,” said Guillaume Le Duc, ALIMA’s Emergency Response Coordinator in Owo, in Ondo State.
Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever that is usually transmitted to humans from the infected urine or faeces of the Mastomys rat. Human-to-human transmission is also possible, via contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, putting health workers at an increased risk of infection.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, sore throat and haemorrhaging. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, during outbreaks Lassa fever mortality rate can reach 30 to 50%. Cases are best managed in isolation units and using a medication called Rivabirin.
“Going beyond this emergency response, Lassa fever is a neglected and not-well understood tropical disease, which is why ALIMA aims to support longer-term research efforts to better understand the dynamics of this disease, develop a rapid diagnostic test and a vaccine, and to optimize the therapeutic course,” said Guillaume Le Duc.
To help support the government’s response, a 6-person emergency team from ALIMA, including an epidemiologist, 3 medical doctors, a logistician and a coordinator, is now on the ground at the Owo Federal Medical Centre in Ondo State, where our teams will help support case management, active case detection, patient triage, public awareness campaigns, and reinforce Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures among health workers.
Thanks to funding from the ELMA Foundation and the Start Fund, ALIMA will continue to support the Ministry of Health for the next 45 days and maintains close contact with local health authorities in order to help stop the spread of the outbreak. ALIMA has also published an interactive story which focuses on people who had been infected by lassa fever, see link below.