By Asma’u Ahmad
The Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Umuahia, said it had placed under surveillance, no fewer than 30 persons, who allegedly had contact with a female doctor, who reportedly died of Lassa fever.
The Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Abali Chuku, made this known on Tuesday at a news conference in Umuahia to formally announce the death of medical officer, Dr Chizorom Ndukwu.
Chuku said “before her death, along the course of her illness, she was admitted at the FMC, during which a few of the staff came in contact with her in the course of her management.”
He said that the hospital had also set up committees to enhance and strengthen protocol for handling the emergency, including compliance with universal safety precautions.
“The management of FMC, Umuahia, regrets to announce the death of her staff. She died of Lassa fever,” the medical director said.
He said that “enhanced surveillance, contact tracing and commencement of prophylaxis in high risk contacts are ongoing.”
He said that it would be wrong for the government to say that there was an outbreak of Lassa fever in FMC.
According to him, it will be wrong to say there is an outbreak of Lassa fever in FMC; rather, it should be that there is an outbreak of the disease in the state.
“May be, the report by the government official was not properly captioned.”
Chuku explained that the deceased allegedly contacted the disease after handling an 11-month-old baby, who was on admission at the hospital.
He said that none of the people, who had contact with the baby before she died, had been brought down by the disease, 21 days after they were placed under surveillance.
The director said that the baby was admitted on March 12 and that the diagnosis had yet to be concluded before she (baby) died the following day.
He said that the hospital may not know where the late medical practitioner contracted the virus.
He said “as professionals, doctors offer their services at various facilities, most of which may not observe the safety precautions as FMC.”
Chuku underscored the need for the investigation concerning the source of the disease to look beyond FMC.
He said that the baby that died in the hospital was on referral from another hospital.
“It is important to look in all directions. We must volunteer all the information we have,” he said, adding that there could be other sources of contracting the virus outside the hospital.
Chuku urged health care providers “to maintain a high index of suspicion and always observe universal safety precautions, while attending to their patients”.
He said that the National Centre for Disease Control was in the hospital to lend its support in the course of the investigation and with the provision of thermometers.
In his speech, Commissioner for Health, Dr John Ahukanna, who also addressed the news conference, stressed the need for people to keep their environment clean and devoid of rats.
“People should make efforts to ensure that the emergency we are facing now does not escalate.
“They should keep their environments clean so that rats do not cohabit with them,” he said.
The commissioner said that though the development had generated tension in the area, there was no reason for people to panic.
He said that government and the management of the hospital were working hard to contain the spread of the disease.
The late doctor was a resident medical officer at the hospital and had barely spent one month in her employment before her death at Irua Specialist Hospital, Irrua, Edo, at the weekend.