The Minister of health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has disclosed that preliminary medical investigation has revealed that the “strange” disease that had claimed several lives in Benue State is not Lassa Fever.
Speaking yesterday evening in Abuja, Ehanire explained that “for now, medical investigations have not detected the exact ailment, but there are indications suggesting that the chemical substance being used for fishing in the affected community could be responsible. But that is subject to outcome of further investigation.”
Many people were confirmed dead in some Benue communities, particularly in Oye-Obi Council, where 15 deaths were recorded and 104 others infected since the mystery disease broke out on January 29, this year.
The minister explained that the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has done preliminary test on specimens collected and result tested negative to Lassa Fever, adding: “However, we have subjected the specimens to further test in our laboratory to know the origin of the disease.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said Nigeria was self-assessed as high in a risk assessment on Coronavirus by the body, primarily because of the frequent travel between China and Nigeria.
The global health body revealed that it was focusing its efforts on nine states that have ports of entry, either by air or water, including Lagos, Kano, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Delta and Bayelsa states and Abuja, which it said were its main priority right now.
WHO’s Technical Officer, Health and Emergency Programme, Dr. Dhamari Naidoo, told journalists that the organisation was working hard to identify isolation points and treatment facilities in the high risk states, adding that the teaching hospital in Gwagwalada, Abuja, has been identified.
She said: “It is a brand new facility, but we are working to provide equipment and human resources. Also, we are looking at the IDH in Yaba, Lagos.
“We are also working on strengthening our surveillance at ports of entry, temperature screening and visual observation. Airlines have also been informed and there will be travel forms that will be distributed, so we are able to monitor travellers coming in from China.
“In terms of diagnostic capacity, the National Reference Lab in Gaduwa, Abuja, has been operational as of this weekend and was officially announced by the NCDC. We are currently working with Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) to get them up and running by this weekend. Overtime, we will have more diagnostic labs within the country, signaling that they are ready to test.”
She added: “One critical action that we are also working on is to ensure that we have sufficient stock piles to respond to any emergencies. The stockpiles are PPE masks, protective clothing, some equipment and sample collection materials, etc, that we will need to monitor response.
“Within the NCDC, which WHO is currently supporting, we have activated the Coronavirus preparedness working group, which has been working over the past two weeks and we are doing a multisectorial and multiagency working group. We have representation from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and our partners that are working within Nigeria.