Lassa fever: Lagos sensitizes over 500 teachers

….Gives hygiene, sanitation codes to stop spread

As efforts to contain Lassa fever takes centre stage across the federation, Lagos State Government has handed codes of hygiene and sanitation to over 500 teachers for further dissemination to school pupils.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, said that the essence of the exercise is to check the spread of Lassa fever in the state, adding that the seminar became necessary to educate teachers on strategies to contain the disease.

Speaking at the sensitisation seminar in Lagos on Monday, Idris said that educating the teachers on strategies to contain Lassa fever is critical to controlling the spread of the disease not both in schools, at homes and in the communities.

The Commissioner said through the teachers, children will be sensitized to note that Lassa fever can be contacted through: ingestion of foods and drinks contaminated by the saliva, urine and faeces of infected rats; catching and preparing infected rats as food; inhaling tiny particles in the air contaminated with infected rat urine or droppings, and direct contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids, through mucous membranes like eyes, nose or mouth.”

While assuring that Lagos State under the leadership of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode would continue to provide quality, affordable and accessible healthcare to the people towards achieving universal healthcare to all, the Idris assured that the government would overcome Lassa fever just as it defeated Ebola virus disease.

A cross-section of participants at the sensitisation seminar in Lagos on Monday(Inset)Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris (middle), flanked by Special Adviser to the Governor on Primary Healthcare, Dr. Olufemi Onanuga (right) and Dr. Omodele Joyce Osunkiyesi, Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health during the occasion.

Besides, the Commissioner called for maintenance of basic environmental sanitation, including proper disposal of refuse and avoiding open defecation; regular hand washing with soap and water, and maintenance of high level of personal hygiene as well as adequate nutrition.

While advocating early report of suspected cases, the Commissioner also urged health workers adhere strictly to infection control measures, while mortuary personnel must wear elbow-length gloves, face mask, gowns and other personal protective equipment while attending to remains of dead patients.

Also speaking at the sensitisation seminar in Lagos, Deputy Director at the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Mrs. George Omowunmi said the exercise is geared to check the spread of Lassa fever in the state, insisting that it has become necessary to educate teachers on strategies to contain the disease among school children.

Lassa haemorrhargic fever outbreaks have spread to 17 states of the federation, killing over 60 patients.

Lagos State has recorded twenty suspected cases of Lassa Fever and two deaths as at Tuesday, since the outbreak of the disease in the country in November, last year, out of which 14 tested negative, while four were confirmed positive of Lasssa

Corroborating earlier views, Omowunmi said that teachers are expected to educate school children on dangers of having contacts with rats which is known to be the natural reservoirs of Lassa virus.

Teachers must advocate that children must end all forms of contacts with rats including playing with handling both living and dead rats.

She said: “We have many children in school, so there is need to sensitise the teachers. In school, a typical class would have about 23 to 50 children. If we don’t let the teachers know what to do, particularly, if any child is coming to school with Lassa disease (fever), the likelihood of passing it to all the children in a given class exists.

“Imagine a situation where 150 children will be infected, one wonders if we have the capacity to handle such problem when it comes up. So it is important for us to tell all teachers, firstly, to inform the children to avoid eating rat infested foods. Once the children are well informed, they take the information home to their parents, this is important because children can eat almost anything,” the Deputy Director said.

“If the children have this information they will take it back home to their parents and neighbours.”

All these will help us in getting as many people as possible to have information about Lassa fever disease and it will help in containing the disease,” she added.

Omowunmi further observed that the teachers will equally take the information back to their family members. With this a large proportion of the society would be better informed and less ignorant about the causes and spread of the disease. It is for this reason that we brought the teachers together to train them.

She explained: “We about 500 teachers from the three senatorial zones (mostly head teachers) today, being the first session. This is because we devised two sessions to manage the teacher’s population, however, the second session will be held on Thursday.

“After the Lassa fever talk, we also discussed the issue of measles. We use this medium to call on teachers, especially head teachers to make it a point of duty that the children are immunized. We will keep on doing this if that is what it takes for people to become fully informed and sensitized.”

According to her, the general assembly in the schools should always be an opportunity for teachers to give the children information on prevention of infection at the early stage, at least there will help to prevent infection.

She also said that the Ministry of Health distributes pamphlets to teachers which they can use to pass information to the children, apart from organizing sensitization programmes.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on January 28, 2016.