UN: UN agencies mobilize to support Benin on cases of Lassa fever

New York, US (PANA) - After the identification of four cases of Lassa fever in Benin, the government, backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has immediately launched a response against the epidemic, a UN statement said on Friday.

The statement issued in New York, said that to date, 25 suspected cases among which were 12 deaths have been identified. Among the deceased, four cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed as positive.

It also said that two persons who contracted the virus are currently under treatment in quarantine isolation centres.

It recalled that, at a press conference held on 23 January 2016, the national authorities indicated that after the confirmation of the proven case of Lassa fever at the St. Martin Zone Hospital of Papane, in the northern district of Tchaourou, a national technical team was immediately dispatched to the spot.

"Following the death of a pregnant woman on 5 January at the same hospital, six health workers – three nurses, a female laboratory technician and two nursing auxiliaries – developed clinical symptoms of the Lassa fever. On 21 January, a male nurse, among the suspected cases, died at Borgou Departmental Hospital of Parakou, located in central Benin.

"In light of all this, the national authorities, supported by WHO and UNICEF and humanitarian partners, have set up a response strategy to the epidemic that includes: quarantine units in affected areas to separate suspected cases from other patients and limit the risks of exposure to people, and a tracing system to follow the contact cases in the affected zone.

"To date, 203 contacts cases are spread across six communes: Tchaourou, Ouesse, Kalale, Bembereke, Parakou, and Porto-Novo," it stated.

Among other actions, almost 200 community health workers are monitoring the contact cases across the country; supplies of medical stocks (Ribavirine) have been prepositioned in Cotonou and in affected areas; protection kits including personal protection equipment (PPE) for health professional staff, soap, tarpaulins, gloves, boots, glasses and masks, decontamination products and infrared thermometers, and water treatment units, have been put at disposal.

The statement disclosed that the health staff of the affected areas have been trained on the use of the protection material, on the medical protocol, and in the identification and active search of suspected contact cases.

Furthermore, the UN agencies noted that sensitization sessions are being organized for the population and awareness raising communication products are broadcast through local and national media including radio stations, press and TV, as a well as online platforms.

According to WHO, Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family of viruses. It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with rodent faeces.

The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa. But the virus can also be transmitted through contact with an infected person via biological liquids: blood, urine, saliva, sperm, vomit and faeces.

The incubation period of the virus is six to 21 days.

The first symptoms of the disease are fever, physical fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, abdominal pains, sore throat. Neck or facial swelling can sometimes be observed.

Ribavirin is an efficient treatment to fight the Lassa fever. This drug can treat infected people if it is administered as soon as the first signs appear.

The UN agencies recommend the following measures to enhance prevention: from the very first signs, it is imperative to immediately go to the nearest health centre; wash hands regularly with water and soap; ensure an adequate protection of food stocks and leftovers at home; avoid the manipulation and consumption of rats and avoid contact with any person suspected or confirmed with the Lassa fever.

Also, stay away from faeces, urine, saliva, vomit and contaminated objects of a person suspected, confirmed or declared dead of the Lassa fever; do not touch the body of a person suspected of having died from the Lassa Fever, even during funerary ceremonies.

To date, an ongoing epidemic in neighbouring Nigeria has seen 175 cases, 101 deaths and 70 confirmed cases in 19 states including Niger and Oyo states in Nigeria, sharing a border with Benin.

Benin was hit by a Lassa fever outbreak between October 2014 and January 2015.

At that time, 16 cases were registered and nine people died. Among the casualties, two were confirmed to be Lassa fever. Relevant authorities declared the end of the epidemic per international sanitary regulations, which recommend the observance of two periods of 21 days during which no new case is registered.

-0-  PANA   AA/AR  5Feb2016

05 february 2016 20:22:56

xhtml CSS