Dr. Nsiah Asare, Director General of Ghana Health Service
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has alerted all regional directors of health services and the chief executive officers of teaching hospitals to look out for Lassa fever.
Lassa fever is an acute and often fatal viral disease, with fever occurring chiefly in West Africa. It is usually acquired from infected rats and incubation period is six to 21 days and health officials say currently in Nigeria there is an outbreak and 31 people have already died.
A statement issued in Accra and signed by Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director General of the GHS, said, “The Ministry of Health of Nigeria has confirmed and subsequently declared Lassa fever outbreak which has affected about 18 states with over 300 cases and 31 deaths. The outbreak has been ongoing for the past six weeks and has necessitated urgent spontaneous national response actions among all neighbouring countries.”
According to the statement, “Lassa fever outbreak has been recurrent in Nigeria and the current outbreak has affected health workers in some states. We respectfully request the regional directors of health services and CEOs of teaching hospitals to ensure this alert message reaches all health workers in the respective regions, districts and hospitals, including the mission and private facilities.”
The statement further added, “We further request the regional directors of health services to initiate process to create public awareness on Lassa fever.”
The GHS recommended measures like “surveillance on Lassa fever and acute haemorrhagic fevers in general (using case definitions) should be enhanced” to health workers as well as urging them to ensure that “suspected cases of Lassa fever should be managed in specific isolation conditions”
“Health workers should adhere to regular infection prevention and control (IPC) measures to prevent and protect against possible nosocomial transmission. Blood sample from suspected case(s) should be taken and safely packaged and sent to Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) for laboratory investigations,” it added.
The alert said, “All levels (national, regions, districts and facilities) are requested to update their preparedness and response plans for Lassa fever and VHF in general, sensitize the respective staff and create necessary public awareness.”
The alert also carried general information on Lassa fever, adding, “The onset of the fever has non-specific signs and symptoms but fever, general weakness and malaise have been noted in its early stages.”
It said, “This is followed by headaches, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and tabdominal pains. Severe cases may progress to show facial swelling, and bleeding, shock, seizures, disorientation and coma may be seen in the late stages.”
It also said that “about 80 percent of Lassa fever infections are mild or asymptomatic.”