Following a joint epidemiological review by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the World Health Organisation in Nigeria (WHO Nigeria) and other partners, the NCDC has announced the end of the emergency phase of the 2019 Lassa fever outbreak.
On the 22nd of January 2019, the NCDC activated a national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate response activities. This was in response to an increase in Lassa fever cases at the beginning of the year.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, 578 confirmed cases including 129 deaths have been recorded from 21 states as at 26th of May 2019.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMEnv), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), and partners coordinated by WHO Nigeria, has led response activities across the country.
Following lessons from the 2018 outbreak, our strategic response included:
1. Improved preparedness through training of health workers across the country and communications campaign before the outbreak.
2. Early deployment of One-Health Rapid Response Teams to affected States and support for surge staff deployment.
3. Establishment of new treatment centres in Kebbi, Benue and Kaduna and strengthening of existing treatment centres.
4. Prepositioning of medical and treatment supplies in all 21 states with confirmed cases in 2018.
5. Improved collaboration with agricultural and environmental health stakeholders and introduction of rodent control strategies.
Following a robust response, the Lassa fever case count has significantly declined in the past seven weeks and has now dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency. This year, there was also a decline in case fatality rate of Lassa fever, from 27% in 2018 to 22% in 2019.
Despite the end of the emergency phase of this outbreak, NCDC expects that sporadic cases may continue to be reported in endemic areas/hotspots and the agency will now coordinate preparedness and response activities through a multi-sectoral Lassa fever Technical Working Group. The group’s focus is to continue monitoring cases, as well as improve disease prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and response activities across all levels in Nigeria.
According to the Director General (DG) of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the agency will continue to improve its knowledge, preparedness and response to Lassa fever outbreaks. “Given that Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria, it is likely that the country will continue to record cases of Lassa fever.
However, we have several research strategies to improve our knowledge of the disease. We are also working with states and partners to establish more long-term strategies such as improved risk communication, infection prevention and control, regular environmental sanitation, enhanced capacity of health workers and improvement of treatment centres among others”.
The Officer-in-Charge of the World Health Organization in Nigeria, Dr. Clement Peter-Lasuba added that “The WHO remains committed to working with the Government of Nigeria and other partners to sustain and improve Nigeria’s capacity to detect, prepare for and respond to Lassa fever outbreaks including implementing a Lassa fever research plan and other control strategies”.
The NCDC remains very grateful to all its partners including WHO, UNICEF, Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC), US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST), Alliance for Medical Action (ALIMA), Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and Bernard Nocht Institute (BNI) in Germany, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Africa Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), George Town University, eHealth Africa, Pro Health International (PHI), ECHO, International Federation of Red cross Communities, World Bank, Japanese Government, PANDORA and other organisations. We also thank the State Ministries of Health and the health workers for their hard work and dedication during this outbreak.