Lassa Fever: Environmental health council calls for proactive measures

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Lassa fever
Lassa fever outbreak

By Okeoghene Akubuike

Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON), has called on federal and state governments to be proactive in curtailing the spread of Lassa fever in the country.

Dr Andy Ukah, the Director, Department of Registration, Ethics and Standard Enforcement,  made the call on Thursday in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

Ukah said that the outbreak of Lassa fever was unfortunate and could be attributed to climate change and Global warming.

“The rats, which cause Lassa fever reside in the bush and during the rainy season, these rats enjoyed their food and shelter and nothing disturbed them.’’

“Immediately the dry season approaches and the vegetation cover is over, coupled with bush burning and lack of food, these rats migrate to human dwellings thereby contaminating human foods.

Ukah said that 20 states had been affected with several deaths recorded due to Lassa fever.

“We should stop being reactive, taking fire brigade approach once it is dry season; and defensive mechanism that is what we have been doing.

“We should be proactive, go all out and attack.  We know that every month of November Lassa fever will start because that is when dry season begins.

“So we need to change our monitoring methods. We need early planning and try to see what can be done to tackle the disease. ”

The director also called for collaboration among health professionals to address the issue of Laser fever in the country, adding that professional rivalry and dichotomy must stop and all hands must be on deck to address the issue permanently.

“Professional rival and dichotomy must stop; we should also know that it is our responsibility to give the public a befitting public health care .

“We have to work together, that is what we call professional collaboration and cooperation and that is what we need in Nigeria, if we were able to overcome small pox, we can overcome Lassa fever.”

Ukah suggested that there should be a five year programme on row back Lassa fever or Lassa fever elimination domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Environment.

He commended the Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, who he described as a professional for efforts being made to address the disease.

“If you are traveling on a road for 51 years, which is the age of Lassa fever in Nigeria –  1969 to 2020, we need to sit down and review our efforts and focus on prevention rather than cure.

“Focus must be on how to eliminate those rats that cause it and focus also must be on training people on the knowledge of the disease.

“We also need the right attitude toward the prevention and the practice which should include how to wash hands and  handle rats.

“So we to start to re-think how to preserve our food, water , sanitation, hygiene; Also, how do we practice our waste management and practice pest control, ” he said.

Ukah said that the council was also calling on governments at all levels to employ more environmental health officers at the federal, states and local government into the field.

He said the sensitisation campaigns would not have the maximum desired impact with the few number of environmental health workers in the country.

According to him, by the WHO standard, one environmental health officer is to take care of 8,000 population.

Ukah, however, suggested that in some parts of Africa, particularly Nigeria, with the dirty  environment, the ratio should be one environmental health officer to about 5,000 people.

He said the register of the council had about 10, 000 health workers, noting that no fewer than 25, 000 to 30,000 environmental health officers were needed to work for the government.

The director advised that there should be incentives and conducive working environment for the officers for more impact. (NAN)


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