The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it has scaled up efforts to support the response rate of five countries in West Africa to Lassa fever outbreak as the disease in these areas had escalated.
According to Moeti, the five countries affected by the outbreak are Nigeria, Benin, Guinea, Liberia and Togo, while countries at risk of an outbreak include Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Sierra Leone.
She said that Nigeria was currently facing its largest outbreak of Lassa fever as 16 states were already affected with 213 confirmed cases since the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) declared an outbreak on January 22.
Moeti said that this also includes 42 deaths marking a significant increase as it was already a third of the total cases for all of last year when the country was thought to have experienced its worst outbreak.
“With five countries in Western Africa reporting outbreaks of Lassa fever, the World Health Organisation has scaled up efforts to support the region’s response to the disease.
“While these outbreaks are occurring during the Lassa fever season in countries where the disease is endemic, the speed of escalation is of concern. The largest outbreak thus far has affected 16 states in Nigeria. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control declared an outbreak of Lassa fever on 22 January 2019.
“The 213 confirmed cases to date including 42 deaths mark a significant increase which is already a third of the total cases for all of last year when Nigeria experienced its worst outbreak of Lassa fever.
“Four health workers have been infected so far in this latest outbreak. In Nigeria, WHO is scaling up efforts to support the Federal authorities, NCDC and affected states in responding to the outbreak.
“An important focus is on early detection and confirmation of suspected cases, providing optimal supportive care and ensuring infection prevention and control measures in designated healthcare facilities in the affected states,” Moeti said.
She said that the organisation has also intensified its technical assistance and was supporting coordination, enhanced surveillance, epidemiological analysis and risk communication.
The regional director said that the organisation was mobilising experts to support case management and infection prevention and control.
She said that to date, a total of 12 cases have been confirmed in Benin, Guinea, Liberia and Togo including two deaths, adding that more suspected cases are being investigated.
She assured that WHO was assisting health authorities in these countries with contact tracing and providing medical and non-medical supplies including technical and financial resources.
Moeti said that this would help in case management, risk communication and logistics.