THE  outbreak of Lassa Fever in Nigeria in worrisome scale in November caught many citizens unawares. The Federal Government, through the Minister of Health,  Dr. Isaac Adewole announced  an outbreak of the lethal disease in Abuja, Delta State,  informing  Nigerians not to panic over the outbreak  of the disease  which  had killed 35 people in seven states in November alone. Dr. Isaac Adewole said  the government had taken adequate measures to contain the outbreak, with 14 lab-confirmed cases among 76 suspected ones in eight states of the federation. The number of deaths arising from the disease has since grown to over 101 with over 200 persons suspected to be carrying the disease in well over 18 states of the country.
IT means the assurances from the Minister that government had taken adequate steps to contain the spread of the disease has not enjoyed the same attention government gave the dreaded Ebola pandemic which of course has the same signs and symptoms with Lassa Fever.  Some of the symptoms include: headache, weakness, bleeding in gums, chest pain, back and abdominal pain, facial swelling, vomiting and others. It is said that death could occur within 14 days and it is even worse for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children.
WE recall that during the outbreak of the Ebola virus, the tradition of shaking hands as part of greeting was scary and most people avoided it because of the fear of contracting the disease. But with Lassa Fever, it is said to be caused by a rat – rodents found in dirty and unkempt areas around our homes. The virus is known to be transmitted to humans through exposure to and eating food contaminated with rat urine and droppings. Rats most times go through food remains especially poorly stored food, not just in our homes. As a matter of fact, most of the foodstuffs we buy in the market are not properly stored! This exposes almost every Nigerian and consumers of Nigerian foodstuffs to the deadly Lassa fever pandemic. This appears to be the reason why  the disease is in the upward swing, spreading like a wild hammatan fire defying current governments’ strategies.
WE believe that  given the mode of spread of the disease, government needs to look beyond the clinical approaches to deal with Lassa Fever. It is well-known that an outbreak of certain epidemics reminds Nigerians of the right things to do, more so when it is as deadly as Ebola and now, Lassa Fever. This is due partly to the fact that we are good at forgetting and neglecting what we know and ought to do whenever we have overcome that challenge. But, should we always wait for an outbreak of a disease before we do what we should do especially when it costs less to nothing?
DURING the outbreak of Ebola, there was so much publicity on hygiene and sanitation. There were hand-washing buckets with soaps or hand sanitisers in almost all the premises of government, religious centres and private establishments and even schools. The media houses and worship centres were not left out. The media also contributed in enlightenment campaigns through editorials, commentaries and interviews, all in a bid to sensitise the public. Government also spent a lot of money to fight the epidemic that does not distinguish the rich from the poor. It was considered an enemy of all. Through such concerted effort, we were able to overcome it. But thereafter, what did we do to the culture of sanitation, hygiene and hand-washing? We simply abandoned it with the history that it came with. We need to reinvest all our energies and resources to re-awaken and sustain our sanitation consciousness.
IT is an obvious fact that our  foodstuffs, particularly among the rural dwellers who deal on them like  yam tubers, garri, melon, grains,  smoked fish/meat, and ogbono are not properly stored and sometimes you find rat droppings on them and probably rat urine too. Government and public spirited persons and organisations must act fast  to re-awaken citizens’ sense of hygiene to stem the Lassa Fever scourge.
WE recall that in the wake of the outbreak of Lassa fever, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, assured Nigerians that Lassa fever will soon become a thing of the past.  His words: “It will become history in Nigeria. Ordinarily, Lassa fever will be eradicated from Nigeria in April.” But with the current rate of spread across the country some drastic measures are urgently needed to stamp out the deadly fever from Nigeria.
NIGERIANS have their rights to all information regarding the complete eradication of this outbreak instead of just predictions on when it should end or resurface by government officials who should know better. Lassa fever outbreak is a matter of life and death and it concerns all of us. The minister must be more than explicit with information regarding the total eradication of Lassa Fever.
WE must again be reminded that conscious and continued efforts of personal hygiene, sanitation, proper storage of food, quick and proper disposal of unwanted food and use of mouse traps will go a long way in stemming the epidemic. Simple habits we learnt during the Ebola pandemic can save lives, save time and reduce the cost of medical bills both for the government and individuals. Our collective efforts towards hygiene and general sanitation behaviour on a long term basis will help Nigerians end this  threatening epidemic.