‘Osun has kept Lassa fever at bay through massive surveillance’

Rafiu Isamotu

The Osun State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, has explained how the state has protected its people from the scourge of the rampaging Lassa Fever Disease, attributing it to massive surveillance, intensive enlightenment campaign and rapid response initiatives, among others.Recent report released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in its weekly epidemiological update, disclosed that a total of 1,121 suspected cases of the disease have been reported across 18 states.

According to the health agency, 353 cases of the disease have been confirmed positive with 110 deaths recorded, giving a case fatality rate of 22.2 per cent.Some of the states most affected by the outbreak are Edo, which has recorded the highest number of suspected cases, Ondo and Ebonyi, as most of the patients are being managed in the three states.

Speaking at a media briefing, the Commissioner, who described the achievements of the state governor, Rauf Aregbesola, in the last seven years within the health sector as unprecedented, said such initiatives as the School Feeding Programme, Save One Million Lives Initiative, Mama Kit, Distribution of Safety Mosquito Nets, Empowerment of Surveillance of Officers, among others, have helped in no small measure.He said: “Osun has been fortunate enough to keep at bay the challenge of Lassa fever. But then, we have had our own share of it. The mandate from the governor is that we must be preventive and not just curative. So, we have our surveillance officers all over the state, so that if there is any suspected case of any disease, they notify us within 24 hours. We have the state epidemiologist who is always at alert coordinating the surveillance officers. And of course, we have our effective Director in charge of Public Health who is working assiduously to keep things right.

“For instance, when we had a case of someone who died of the disease, we traced the patient to Ore, in Ondo State where he was being attended to before finding his way to Ile-Ife where he attended Seventh Day Adventist Hospital on January 29, and was referred to Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital on January 30 and died same day. Of course, the sample taken confirmed Lassa fever and we ensured that we traced all the 34 cases that had contact with him at the two hospitals. So everyone is fine.”

He continued: “Even without any outbreak, we have our usual health talks on television, radios and to encourage people to live a healthy lifestyle and keep things that could attract the kind of rats that carries Lassa fever.“We have our isolation centres already prepared for emergencies and within our hospitals, we have designated some wards as isolation centres before they are transferred to the main isolation centre. We also have the Professional Protective Equipment, (PPE) and the governor also just released the funds for the purchase of more PPE aside those supplied by the Federal Government.”

Meanwhile, the Commissioner has appealed to the people of the state to continue to pray for the Aregbesola-led administration, saying he has pledged that till his last day in office, he will ensure that his campaign promises are fulfilled.According to Isamotu, the governor’s commitment to the school feeding project is unusual, and deserving of commendation from Nigerians, saying in spite of the dwindling resources, the governor has insisted the programme must be accorded priority.

The Commissioner added: “We have seen the result in terms of school enrollment increase, retention in schools and because it addressed the issue of stunted growth among the school-aged pupils, the governor has insisted we must run it.”

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