Lassa Fever: Nigeria, WHO ratify rat control processes

Nigerian Government in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) has begun processes to develop a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for rodent control and ending outbreak of Lassa fever in the country.

This was the thrust at the opening of a three-day Stakeholders’ Review and Validation Workshop for Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Rodent Control (Deratization)in Nigeria in Abuja.

The event, organised by the Federal Ministry of Environment through a One-Health approach with support from the WHO Country office is targeted at promoting public health and safety of Nigerians.

The Director, Pollution Control and Environmental Health Department, Federal Ministry of Environment, Mr Charles Ikeah, said this was necessary as continued fatality cases of Lassa fever was worrisome.

Quoting the Nigeria Centre of Disease Control (NCDC), Ikeah, said latest situation report showed that 715 confirmed Lassa fever cases and 136 deaths were recorded in 23 states and 92 local government areas in Nigeria.

According to him, one of the successful approaches to reducing Lassa fever outbreak is through rodent control, which will reduce the contact between rodents and human.

Ikeah, represented by Alhaji Idi Maleh, Deputy Director, Sewage and Air Emission management, said current programmes to control rodent in the country was done in an unprofessional manner.

“The best practices for rodent control program is deratization, however the way and manner the deratization is being carried out in various communities is highly unprofessional and may cause public health issues to humans, animals and the environment.

“Due to the crucial role deratization plays in Lassa fever prevention and control, and the unprofessional manner citizens are carrying it out there is need to develop a harmonized and standardized Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on deratization so as to ensure that public health and safety are maintained’’.

The director said before the recent outbreak, the Ministry has taken proactive measures to improve the overall general sanitation and hygiene situation in the country by establishing sanitation Desks in all the 36 states of the country.

He added that in 2019 also, with the support of WHO and the NCDC, the ministry had carried out environmental sanitation response activities to lass fever outbreak, prevention and control in Edo and Ondo States.

“Activities undertaken include rodents’ control (deratization), sensitization/education of community members on Lassa fever prevention/control measures, premises inspection, distribution of fumigation equipment and chemicals, waste bins and rodent traps’’.

He however expressed optimism that when finalized, the SOP would serve as a guide to the professionals on the field to effectively reduce the impact of rodents and reducing the incidence of Lassa fever outbreaks in Nigeria.

Speaking at the Validation exercise, WHO Nigeria Country Representative, Dr Walter Mulombo, represented by the National Consultant, Public Health & Environment, Dr Edwin Isotu-Edeh, said since the first Lassa fever outbreak in 2018, stakeholders saw the need to synergise to halt the spread.

He said it was worrisome that Nigeria still battling with preventable diseases such as Lassa fever, saying the meeting was a right step in the right direction.

According to him, it is critical for Standard Operating Procedure to be standardised, saying activities on rodent control in rivers state should be uniformed as country.

“WHO is excited that the capacity of all stakeholders have been built, that is why we are seeing coordination from the ministry of environment and the NCDC.

“We will continue to play our part towards ending Lassa fever outbreak in the country towards promoting public health’’.

Ms. Chioma Dan-Nwafor, Lassa Fever Incident Manager, NCDC, said it was impressive to see commitment from all stakeholders in the fight to halt Lassa fever deaths in the country.

According to her, Nigeria has the largest Lassa fever burden in the country, saying so far, no fewer than 10 doctors have died within a year.

She said with collaboration from all stakeholders, especially from the federal ministry of environment in Lassa fever emergency operations centre, this has helped coordination.

“The NCDC will like to commend the ministry of environment for taking the lead in rodent control, this response has seen progress.

“We are hopeful that with the finalisation of the Standard Operating Procedure will give the needed scientific-based response for push towards reducing Lassa fever deaths in the country’’.

Dan-Nwafor however pledged the commitment of NCDC towards ending Lassa fever deaths and enhancing public health of all Nigerians.

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