Monrovia, Liberia (PANA) – Amidst an outbreak of Lassa Fever in certain parts of rural Liberia in recent times, a joint team of Liberian health authorities and international partners has undertaken a tour of the affected communities.
The team, comprising the Liberian health ministry, National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) as well as the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF, will hold dialogue with communities in Bong, Margibi and Grand Bassa regions.
The delegation is headed by the acting Director General of the NPHIL, Dr. Masoka Fallah.
The NPHIL was established in Liberia after the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic in West Africa to strengthen existing infection prevention and control efforts, laboratories, surveillance, infectious disease control, public health capacity building, response to outbreaks, and monitoring of diseases with epidemic potential.
In a NPHIL statement published by local dailies on Monday, Dr. Fallah said plans were in the pipeline to construct at least four isolation centres in the most affected areas while Liberian health authorities and partners work together to strengthen surveillance systems in the communities.
In remarks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Country Director, Dr. Desmond Williams, called for a Lassa Fever Containment Policy to be adopted as a national document.
Williams said this policy instrument will give national support to the fight against Lassa Fever in Liberia.
The US CDC official observed that the disease is fast becoming a national threat and needs to be fought with a robust strategy to distinguish it from ordinary malaria.
Also speaking, WHO Country Director Mesfin Zbelo challenged Liberian health authorities to concentrate on community-based engagements, and assured the support of the WHO in tackling the spread of the virus.
There has been one confirmed death in about six weeks, with nearly three dozen infections, including health workers.
Lassa fever, also known as Lassa haemorrhagic fever (LHF), is a type of viral haemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus and many infected by the virus do not develop symptoms.
When symptoms occur, they typically include fever, weakness, headaches, vomiting and muscle pains, with the risk of death once infected about one percent and frequently occurs within two weeks of the onset of symptoms.
The disease is usually initially spread to people via contact with the urine or feaces of an infected mouse and then via direct contact between people.
There is no vaccine and prevention requires isolating those who are infected and decreasing contact with the mice.
The virus was first discovered in 1969 from a case in the town of Lassa in Borno State, Nigeria, but the disease is relatively common in West Africa, including Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ghana.
There are about 300,000 to 500,000 cases which result in about 5,000 deaths a year, health reports say.
-0- PANA PTK/AR 18Nov2019