GHS Dispels Lassa Fever Outbreak Scare

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has allayed the fears of the public on the outbreak of Lassa fever, saying its alert was to create the needed awareness so that precautionary measures would be strictly adhered to.

Dr Franklin Asiedu Bekoe, GHS Head of the Disease Surveillance Unit, in a media interview on Monday, said the alertness issued earlier followed reports of the outbreak of Lassa fever in some neighbouring countries, including Nigeria, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Lassa fever, he explained, is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) illness which is endemic in West Africa, with an incubation period of between six to 21 days.

He said although the onset of the disease has non-specific signs and symptoms, it is characterised by fever, general weakness and malaise at its early stages.

This, he said, is followed by headaches, sore throat, muscle, chest and abdominal pains, vomiting and diarrhoea, adding that severe cases may progress to show facial swelling, and bleeding, while shock, seizures, disorientation, as well as coma may be seen in the late stages.

“About 80 percent of Lassa fever infections are mild or asymptomatic,” he said and that rodents such as rats serve as reservoirs of the virus.

He advised the public to maintain good home and community hygiene to prevent the breeding of rodents that may infect their food and water with the virus, stay free from rats and block all their hideouts.

We must ensure proper storage of grains and foodstuffs, dispose proper disposal of garbage, cook all foods thoroughly, keep cats to deter rats and avoid contacts with blood and body fluids whilst caring for sick persons,” he added.

Dr Bekoe also called for regular handwashing with soap under running water, report all forms of fevers immediately to the closest health facilities for diagnoses and undergo treatment with the appropriate medication.

He said although Ghana has not yet recorded any case, it is important to ensure alertness of the disease and all acute haemorrhagic fevers in general, enhance surveillance at all ports of entry and encourage all regional, district and teaching hospitals, including the mission and private facilities, to alert their staff and further initiate processes to create public awareness.

Presently, the Ministry of Health of Nigeria has confirmed and subsequently declared Lassa fever outbreak, which has affected about 18 States with over 300 recorded cases and 31 deaths.

The outbreak, he explained, has been ongoing for the past six weeks and has necessitated urgent spontaneous national response actions among all neighbouring countries.

He added that Lassa fever outbreak has been recurrent in Nigeria and the current outbreak has affected health workers in some states, he said.

Among other recommendations by the GHS, he said suspected cases must be treated in isolation, and advised health workers to strictly adhere to regular infection prevention and control (IPC) measures to prevent and protect persons against possible nosocomial transmission.

He urged all health workers to enhance surveillance, manage suspected cases in specific isolation conditions, send safely packaged blood samples from suspected cases to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) for further laboratory investigations.

He urged all national, regional and district facilities to update their preparedness and response plans for Lassa fever and VHF in general, sensitise the respective staff and create the necessary public awareness.