NCDC announces end of emergency phase of 2019 Lassa fever outbreak

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Following a joint epidemiological review by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the World Health Organisation in Nigeria (WHO Nigeria) and other partners, the NCDC has announced the end of the emergency phase of the 2019 Lassa fever outbreak.

The 2019 outbreak left 129 people dead in 21 states as at May 26th 2019 while about 578 persons were confirmed infected.

The NCDC had on the 22nd of January 2019, activated a national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate response activities, the move was in response to an increase in Lassa fever cases at the beginning of the year.

The public health body collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Environment Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and also partnered with the WHO in its strategic response to fighting the disease.

The response included; Improved preparedness through training of health workers across the country and communications campaign before the outbreak, Early deployment of One-Health Rapid Response Teams to affected States and support for surge staff deployment, Establishment of new treatment centres in Kebbi, Benue and Kaduna and strengthening of existing treatment centres, Prepositioning of medical and treatment supplies in all 21 states with confirmed cases in 2018 and Improved collaboration with agricultural and environmental health stakeholders and introduction of rodent control strategies.

Following a robust response, the Lassa fever case count has significantly declined in the past seven weeks and has now dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency.

This year, there was also a decline in case fatality rate of Lassa fever, from 27% in 2018 to 22% in 2019.

Despite the end of the emergency phase of this outbreak, NCDC expects that sporadic cases may continue to be reported in endemic areas/hotspots and the agency will now coordinate preparedness and response activities through a multi-sectoral Lassa fever Technical Working Group. The group’s focus is to continue monitoring cases, as well as improve disease prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and response activities across all levels in Nigeria.

According to the Director General (DG) of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the agency will continue to improve its knowledge, preparedness and response to Lassa fever outbreaks. “Given that Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria, it is likely that the country will continue to record cases of Lassa fever. However, we have several research strategies to improve our knowledge of the disease. We are also working with states and partners to establish more long-term strategies such as improved risk communication, infection prevention and control, regular environmental sanitation, enhanced capacity of health workers and improvement of treatment centres among others”.

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