By Chioma Umeha
By Francis Onoiribholo
Bureau Chief Benin
Nigeria’s negligence of the menace of Lassa fever has been described as “annual recurrent budget of death for the poor people in Nigeria.”
A Professor of Microbiology, Dennis Agbonlahor made the declaration in a Distinguished Lecture titled “Combating Lassa Fever: A National Health Challenge” which he delivered at the University of Benin (UNIBEN) at the weekend.
Agbonlahor who quoted from a statement he credited to Prof. Oyewole Tomori, said it was sad that for the past fourty-seven years, Nigeria had hitherto made noise in the name of creating awareness during outbreaks but goes to sleep at the end of each episode and only wakes up when the next outbreak occurs.
“We are not aware of any report on cases of Lassa fever and its endemicity in other continents of the world. This perhaps explains why governments in the developed countries show little or no interest/financial commitment to lassa fever eradication. They look at the disease as a regional problem which is mainly endemic in West Africa.
Despite the thousands of deaths from the fever, Nigeria is still unprepared to contain the disease, waking up every year an outbreak is reported, running like a decapitated chicken in any direction and forgetting about the disease till another year of another outbreak,” he said.
The Professor of Microbiology who advocated accurate epidemiological data on the distribution, rodent typing and rodents’ lassa viral carriage according to geopolitical zones and states in Nigeria, lauded the government of Muhammadu Buhari which, according to him, recently inaugurated a national committee on the control of providing holistic guidance on “One-Health” approach to preventing haemorrhagic fever and other infectious disease outbreaks in Nigeria chaired by Prof. Oyewole Tomori. ?
“This is a step in the right direction as the government now appears serious and willing to listen and provide the necessary logistic support aim at controlling the scourge of lassa fever in Nigeria,” he said.
He noted that governments of developed countries show little or no interest/financial commitment to lassa fever eradication, apparently because no report on cases of the contagious disease and it’s epidemicity has been made in other continents, adding, “they look at it as the disease of a regional problem which is mainly endemic in West Africa.”
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Vice Chancellor of the UNIBEN, Prof. Faraday Orumwense said the institution has taken the challenge to join the fight against the fever.?
He disclosed that the authorities of the institution has set up a committee to sensitize the university community on ways to prevent the disease and to ?collaborate with the government and NGOs on ways to eradicate it.?
In a goodwill message, the Director, Centre for Disease control, Edo State Ministry of Health, Dr. Osamwonyi Irowa, called on the people to join hands in the fight against the virus by coming together to create awareness which he said is one step toward curbing the disease.
?He noted that the prevalence of the disease is in the rural areas where people know close to nothing about it.