Nigeria must embrace `One Health Approach’ to control Lassa fever outbreak — academic

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By Tosin Kolade

Abuja, May 11, 2022 An academic, Prof. Godson Ana on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to embrace the `One Health Approach’ to control Lassa fever outbreak and promote public health of Nigerians.

Ana, who is the Dean Faculty of Public Health, University of Ibadan, told newsmen that this was crucial following the increasing cases of Lassa fever, describing it as worrisome.

According to him, the Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria with 136 deaths reported in 23 states and 92 Local Government Areas across the country as at April 10, totaling 715 confirmed cases.

“The one health approach encourages synergy across different professional groups and expertise.

“For Lassa fever control and response, there are components that require the inputs of Environmental Health Officers, Clinicians in the health sector and in the agriculture sector.

“This is because the rats are migrating from the bushes, farmlands undergoing land preparation into dwellings, residential areas, office spaces, and markets among others.

“So every sector has a role to play, the essence of trying to adopt this strategy is to ensure the synergy so that there will be free flow of information.’’

He said the annual peak of Lassa fever cases was typically observed during the dry season (December–April), saying four states, Ondo, Edo, Ebonyi and Bauchi account for 82 per cent of confirmed cases.

“The other states affected are Benue, Oyo, Taraba, Kogi, Enugu, Kaduna, Cross River, Delta, Katsina and Plateau.’’

He listed environmental control strategies such as; intensive health education, effective community sanitation, adequate food storage, proper waste management and routine indoor hygiene as effective to halt Lassa fever outbreaks.

The academic said with coordination from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the National Emergency Operations Centre alert mode for effective multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary coordination of the response had been activated.

Ana said the role of awareness creation could not be over-emphasised in control and preventing Lassa fever in the country, saying this was critical.

“When I mentioned awareness, it is not like it is increasing, some level of momentum has been gathered with the role that NCDC is playing. I believe that much more is desired.

“Awareness creation should increase, for example, during the days of Ebola, the media played a very critical role in information dissemination likewise the era of COVID-19.

“We heard so much about the virus across various media channels and step down to different languages. The wider the outlet of publicity, the more the citizens will be more informed and this will help them to know what to do.

“There are issues that awareness creation will be able to address, part of that is proper indoor hygiene conditions and safeguarding of food items, hygiene habits and general cleaning conditions, which we are currently relegating to the background.’’