Nigerian Health Minister, Isaac Adewole, has warned all health professionals to investigate every case of fever before treatment.
The warning is coming as Lassa fever, a killer disease, resurfaces in parts of the country.
In 10 days, Lassa fever, a disease commonly caused by contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces, has already claimed about 10 lives including health workers in Ebonyi, Kogi and Ondo.
Hundreds of persons have been hospitalised following the return of the disease.
“Every fever must be investigated properly and treated appropriately. No one should treat malaria without diagnosis”, Mr. Adewole warned in a text message sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday.
The first Lassa fever case this year was confirmed in Ebonyi state more than a week ago.
Four people including three health workers died from the infection, a total of nine cases have been confirmed and 139 persons placed under surveillance in the state, according to the Commissioner for Health, Daniel Umezuruike.
Between 2005 and 2018, the infection has claimed over 40 health workers in Ebonyi according to the state chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA.
Also according to Punch Newspaper, about five people were killed in a recent outbreak of the disease in Ondo State while 19 people hospitalised.
A doctor, Idowu Ahmed, who was infected while treating a seven-month old baby died, of the disease in Kogi state. The baby died on Friday.
“We are on top of the situation in Ondo, Ebonyi and Kogi,” the health minister, who confirmed the recent cases, said in response.
“Our rapid response teams are there to strengthen the system on ground. We are supplying drugs and man power to the affected states,” Mr. Adewole, a professor, said.
He advised health professionals to practise infection prevention and control practises such as, “hand cleaning, wearing gloves and reporting needle injuries promptly.”
The illness was first discovered in Nigeria when two missionary nurses succumbed to the virus in 1969. Its name is derived from the village of Lassa in Borno state where it was first documented.
The disease is endemic to a number of West African countries. There are estimated to be between 100,000 and 300,000 cases of Lassa fever per year and approximately 5,000 deaths due to the disease.
Symptoms generally appear within 1-3 weeks following infection. An estimated 80 per cent of infections produce symptoms so mild that they remain undiagnosed. These mild infections are characterised by a general malaise, headache and a light fever.
Because the symptoms of Lassa fever are so varied, diagnosis can be difficult according to an analysis on Medical News Today.
Clinically, the disease can appear similar to other viral hemorrhagic fevers, including the Ebola virus, malaria and typhoid.
The only definitive tests for Lassa fever are laboratory-based where the handling of specimens can be hazardous, only specialised institutions can conduct these tests.
No less than 18 states across Nigeria recorded at least one confirmed case of Lassa fever out of a total of 241 recorded cases with 82 deaths between 2016 and the middle of 2017 according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC weekly update on the outbreak of the disease (Week 33, August 12-17, 2017).
The most common method of transmission is the consumption or inhalation of rat urine or feces. Lassa fever can also be spread through cuts and open sores.
Because the rats live in and around human habitation, they often come into contact with foodstuffs. The rats themselves are sometimes eaten and the disease can be spread during their preparation.
Person-to-person contact is possible via blood, tissue, secretions or excretions, but not through touch. Lassa fever can also be passed between patients and staff at poorly equipped hospitals where sterilisation and protective clothing is not standard.