Two patients have died of Lassa fever virus at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos.
LUTH’s Chief Medical Director, Prof. Chris Bode, who confirmed the deaths on Tuesday, also stated that a resident doctor who took part in the autopsy has been isolated and is presently receiving treatment at the hospital.
He noted that two suspected cases are being followed up at the Isolation Ward in LUTH.
According to Bode, the first case was detected in a 39-year-old pregnant woman who had a bleeding disorder following a stillbirth; while the second victim died within few days of being admitted at the hospital.
The hospital’s management noted that 100 hospital workers who had contact with the index patients are being monitored for the symptoms of the disease.
Bode said, “Each of these two patients presented very late and died in spite of efforts to salvage them.
“Post-mortem examination had been conducted before Lassa fever status was eventually suspected and confirmed.
“No less than 100 different hospital workers exposed to the index case are currently being monitored.
“A resident doctor who took part in the autopsy has been confirmed with the disease and is currently on admission.”
The CMD, however, assured patients and health workers at the teaching hospital not to panic, saying the hospital had the needed drugs and resources at its disposal to prevent an outbreak or spread of the disease within the health facility.
According to him, the state’s Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja, have sent personnel and experts to assist with the tracing and follow-up of contacts, in addition to managing suspected cases.
He said, “There are adequate materials for containment of the disease, while drugs have been made available to treat anyone confirmed with the disease.
The Centre for Disease Control in Nigeria has also been contacted.
Two other suspected cases from Lagos State are also presently admitted and quarantined while undergoing confirmatory laboratory tests.
“LUTH has always worked closely with officials of the state’s Ministry of Health in handling a number of diseases of public importance such as rabies, cholera, Lassa fever and the recent diarrhoea disease at the Queen’s College,” Bode said.
Lassa fever is an acute febrile illness, with bleeding and death in severe cases. It is spread by rats.
The Director- General, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Dr. Babatunde Salako, said there was a need to map the pattern of the outbreaks and the nature of the vector responsible for the spread of the disease.
Salako, who spoke to our correspondent in Lagos on Tuesday, said it was impossible for one to tackle a disease that one does not know its nature and epidemiology.
He said, “It’s time for us to map out the states that have recorded Lassa fever outbreaks and understudy states that are have never had an outbreak. This is so we can identify why and replicate what we find to help those who record outbreaks yearly.
“After this, we will study the vectors involved in affected states, in this case, the rats. It is after all these that we can come out with an evidence-based policy on prevention of Lassa fever.”
Salako also said its high time Nigeria led a vaccine and treatment research as Nigerian has the highest number of people dying of the disease globally.
“We need to invest in the development of a vaccine because there is none yet and because it does not have high income countries, their governments will not dedicate resources to such ventures.
“We have, however, inaugurated a committee that will map the outbreak, the movement of the vectors, so we can see develop a public health model towards prevention after which we will look at the possibility of research on a vaccine, ” he added.