Dozens of people have died following a Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria, with fears that the death toll may continue to rise rapidly.
At least 44 people have been confirmed dead across 10 Nigerian states after being infected with the hemorrhagic disease. The 10 states that have been affected include Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Ondo, Plateau and Oyo states.
Authorities have urged citizens to remain calm as the federal government announced that it intends to appoint a National Lassa Fever Action Committee to discuss how to halt the spread of disease.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has called on the Nigerian Government to set up and improve existing response mechanisms to ensure rapid action in cases of disease outbreaks.
Dr Muhammad Askira,, President of the Association, expressed his concerns regarding the recent Lassa fever outbreak during a news conference in Abuja.
Askira says that there should be well established structures in place at all levels of government to ensure that rapid and effective action was taken during situations involving disease outbreaks such as has occurred during this recent Lassa outbreak.
"There should be on ground, at any given point, already well structured strategic system, from the Local to the Federal Governments, from the primary healthcare level to tertiary healthcare, already whereby the team is already on alert for prompt and effective response to this type of epidemic.
"We should not wait until there is an outbreak before we start rushing to address the epidemic,” says Askira.
The first case of Lassa Fever in this latest Nigerian outbreak was reported in August 2015 however an official outbreak was not declared until January 2016.
Lassa fever is transmitted via contact with faeces, blood and urine of a rodent, most commonly the multimammate rat, human to human transmission is also possible. Early symptoms of the disease includes high fever, general weakness, sore throat, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. Later symptoms include bleeding, rashes and swelling of the eyes and genitalia. If not treated in it's early stage Lassa fever can be deadly or can have ongoing health ramifications, most commonly deafness.
The general public is being urged to avoid contact with rodents as well as avoid foods that may be contaminated with rat secretions and to maintain good hygiene by washing their hands.