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NCDC cautions health workers on the transmission of Lassa fever

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is calling on all health care workers to prevent person to person transmission of Lassa fever.

The agency stated that epidemiological data shows that more cases of Lassa fever are usually recorded during the dry season, which is usually from November to May.

The health body further noted that inappropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks and poor IPC practices, increase the risk of person to person transmission of Lassa fever.

“Some other risk factors that can lead to health care worker infection include, Doctors, nurses and other health workers providing direct patient care without standard precautions.

Hospital support staff cleaning or disinfecting contaminated surfaces, materials and supplies without adequate protective gear.”

“Laboratory staff handling blood samples of patients without appropriate precautions.

 Medical or hospital support staff preparing and/or handling dead bodies of Lassa fever patients without appropriate precautions.”

In the same vein, NCDC advised health care workers to practice standard precautions at all times while handling patients and body fluids.

 “It is essential to always perform hand hygiene at the right moments. To also wear the correct PPE based on the procedure to be performed, irrespective of the provisional diagnosis of the patient.

 Appropriately dispose and disinfect items used by Lassa fever patients such as syringes, thermometers, beddings, clothing, cups, plates, spoons. Ensure injectable and sharp items are disposed off safely.”

Lassa fever is a major public health challenge in West Africa, with Nigeria bearing the highest burden. It is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) caused by the Lassa virus.

 The natural reservoir for the virus is the Mastomys natalensis rodent (commonly known as the multimammate rat). Other rodents that carry the virus have also been identified.

Nigerians are advised to report all suspected cases of Lassa fever to the  Local Government Area Disease Surveillance and Notification Officer (DSNO). They are the first link to response and care for Lassa fever cases in Nigeria.

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