Rapid increase in Lassa fever cases in Nigeria
“ALIMA’s priority is to help Nigerian health authorities protect and train hospital staff, improve case management and facilitate actions in the community to control the transmission of the disease,” said Guillaume Le Duc, ALIMA’s Lassa Coordinator. “The goal is to catch cases early, and improve the chances of survival for those who become infected.”
According to the NCDC, 449 suspected cases of Lassa fever have been reported across 17 States since January 1. Among these, 132 cases have been confirmed, as of February 4, and 40 people, including 3 health workers, have died. The current number of suspected cases is more than double the average annual caseload recorded in previous years.
ALIMA’s emergency Response
To support the government’s response, an emergency team from ALIMA, including an epidemiologist, medical doctors, logisticians and a coordinator, are on the ground at the Owo Federal Medical Center in Ondo State and the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo State. Our teams are supporting case management, active case detection, patient triage, public awareness campaigns, and reinforcing Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures.
ALIMA is supporting the rehabilitation of a 38-bed treatment center in Owo to improve treatment capacity, and also expanding the bed capacity at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital. ALIMA is also supporting the Nigerian government’s efforts by supplying hospitals and health clinics with materials to ensure basic hygiene standards, reinforce infection prevention and control at triage points, and helping with waste management. ALIMA is providing personal protective equipment (PPE), thermoflash thermometers, and 3,500 vials of ribavirin, the recommended treatment.
The need for research on Lassa Fever
“Lassa fever is a very neglected tropical disease and we need to look beyond this emergency to launch research initiatives,” said Pr. Denis Malvy, a professor at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM Unit 1219). “This is exactly why ALIMA and INSERM created a research alliance: we need to respond to immediate needs and support longer-term research efforts at the same time. Our goals would be to better understand the dynamics of this disease, assess rapid diagnostic tests, evaluate the potential of vaccine candidates and improve the therapeutic tools available to clinicians on the front lines.”
Thanks to funding from the ELMA Relief Foundation and the Start Fund, ALIMA will continue to support the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control until at least March 1, 2018 and maintains close contact with local health authorities in order to help stop the spread of the outbreak.
The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) is a medical humanitarian organization that works hand-in-hand with a network of local organizations to provide quality medical care to the most vulnerable populations in emergency situations and recurrent crises. Based in Dakar, Senegal, ALIMA has treated over 3 million patients in 12 countries since its creation in 2009, and launched more than a dozen research projects focused on malnutrition, malaria and Ebola. ALIMA has extensive experience responding to outbreaks, including Ebola in Guinea, Rift Valley Fever in Niger, Lassa fever in Togo and Dengue fever in Burkina Faso.
In Nigeria, ALIMA has been working in the northeast in Borno State since July 2016, where our teams were the first to provide medical and ambulatory nutritional care to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host populations in Monguno. The program has since expanded to include the opening of a clinic near the makeshift camps for internally displaced persons in Muna Garage, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, which provides primary medical care to children under the age of five, and treatment for cases of severe malnutrition at the Intensive Therapeutic Feeding Center at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, in Maiduguri.
In 2017, in Nigeria, our teams performed nearly 50,000 pediatric consultations, treated more than 10,000 children for severe acute malnutrition, and helped 2,500 women give birth. In August 2017, ALIMA responded to an outbreak of cholera in Borno State that affected more than 5,000 people.
Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever that is usually transmitted to humans from the infected urine or feces of the Mastomys rat. Human-to-human transmission is also possible, via contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, putting health workers at an especially increased risk of infection.
Symptoms of the disease include fever, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, sore throat and hemorrhaging. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, Lassa fever mortality rate can reach 30% during outbreaks. Cases are best managed in isolation units and using a medication called ribavirin.
Cover photo: Sophie Garcia / ALIMA