Recently, the Edo State Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Comrade Phillip Shaibu flagged-off Lassa fever eradication campaign at Auchi. He called for total neatness and cleanliness within our environments and complete adherence to all preventive measures.

He said: “We are here again to deal with the disease which is a major concern to government at the moment. Today, we decided to flag off Lassa fever eradication campaign. In 2018, we did a similar thing when Auchi was almost becoming an epidemic centre. With the cooperation of all major stakeholders at all levels, we were able to reduce the impact to a single digit.”

“This time, it is not to eliminate Lassa fever but to sustain the process to arrive at a zero digit. This time, we decided that our Royal father, the Otaru of Auchi should host us to quicken the message down to the various communities.”

Lassa fever has caused Edo State more harm than any other diseases that has affected this state. Over twenty one persons have died of Lassa fever this year. This disease is preventable because it is transmitted to humans via rats even when it has ravaged our communities.

Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic disease. It was first discovered in Nigeria, when two missionary nurses became ill with the virus in 1969. Its name is derived from the village of Lassa, where it was first documented. Lassa fever is a viral infection carried by a type of rat that is common in West Africa. This is one of the most common rodents in equatorial Africa, found across much of sub-Saharan Africa. Lassa fever mainly occurs in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria. However, the Mastomys rat is common in neighboring countries, so these areas are also at risk.

Once a Mastomys rat is infected with the virus, it can excrete the virus in its faeces and urine, potentially for the rest of its life. As a result, the virus can spread easily, especially as the rats breed rapidly and can inhabit human homes. The most common method of transmission is by consuming or inhaling rat urine or faeces. It can also be spread through cuts and open sores.

The rats live in and around human habitation, and they often come into contact with foodstuffs. Sometimes people eat the rats, and the disease can be spread during their preparation. Person-to-person contact is possible via blood, tissue, secretions or excretions, but not through touch. Sharing needles may spread the virus, and there are some reports of sexual transmission. Lassa fever can also be passed between patients and staff at poorly equipped hospitals where sterilization and protective clothing is not standard.

Symptoms include: Malaria, sore throat, bleeding in the gums, nose, eyes, or elsewhere, difficulty in breathing, a cough, vomiting and diarrhea, both with blood, difficulty swallowing, hepatitis, swollen face, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen, shock, hearing loss, which may be permanent, high or low blood pressure etc.

Death can occur within 2 weeks after the onset of symptoms due to multiple organ failure. However, health organizations hope that current work on vaccine development will be successful. Rehydration and treatment of symptoms can improve the chances of survival if there is an early diagnosis.

The main focus of prevention is “community hygiene,” to control the rat population. These include: regular hand-washing, storing foods in rodent-proof containers, keeping garbage away from the home, keeping pet cats, avoiding blood and other bodily fluids when caring for sick relatives, following safe burial procedures, using protective equipment in a healthcare setting, including masks and eyewear. There is a test centre at Irrua Specialist Hospital, Irrua, Edo State University, Uzarue and the Edo State Government is presently planning a healthy to establish a centre at Auchi Central Hospital. .

The Mastomys rat is so widespread that it cannot realistically be eradicated. As a result, the main aim is to avoid these rodents and prevent them from sharing human habitation.

Comrade Shaibu said: “If we have a clean environment, then we are sure of having a healthy living.”