Why number of infectious diseases is increasing – Lagos Commissioner

Prof Akin Abayomi, Lagos Commissioner for health

Prof. Akin Abayomi, Commissioner for Health in Lagos State, says the increasing cases of zoonotic diseases being experienced is arising from the destruction of the environment.

Abayomi, speaking at a press briefing on Emerging Infectious Diseases including the raging Novel CoronaVirus and Lassa Fever, on Friday in Lagos, said: “it is forcing wildlife into cities”.

Zoonotic disease is an infectious disease spread between animals and humans.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the new Coronavirus (known as 2019-nCoV) are zoonotic diseases.

It was first reported in Wuhan City, China, on Dec. 31, 2019, and has since been detected in nine other countries, including Thailand, Japan and the U.S.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 557 people have been infected, and at least 17 people have died from the virus, which is from the same family as SARS and the common cold.

Abayomi said that humans were encroaching into the wildlife, thus increasing contact with animals.

“The situation exposes people to a lot of dangerous pathogens that had never been seen before like the Coronavirus and Ebola diseases.

“What happened in China is that they eat some of these wildlife which has become part of their cuisines, or they rear the animals, which is not too unusual from what we do practice in Nigeria.

“If you go to some places, you will see bush meat. There are certain markets in Lagos and around Nigeria where if you want access to live, dead or smoked bush meat, there is enough.

“I know in Nigeria, there is a tendency that anything that moves must be killed and eaten, we have to try to move away from that.

“Apart from the fact that these animals play an important role in the environment, not everything must be killed and eaten,” the commissioner said.

He warned that some species of animals harbour a lot of pathogens, which could be transmitted from animals to humans, saying that same thing happened with the Ebola virus.

On the state’s preparedness to address infectious diseases, Abayomi said that the state had boosted its emergency preparedness after the Ebola virus, through implementation of policies on bio-security and bio-banking.

The commissioner said that his ministry was collaborating with the Federal Ports Authority at air, land and sea border posts to elevate screening and surveillance of incoming travellers since the reported outbreak of Coronavirus diseases in China, and some other countries.

Abayomi said that the state’s biosecurity team was working with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital LUTH).

“This is to build urgent capacity to identify the virus in the state’s Biosecurity facility and isolation wards situated at the Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, in case of any suspected carrier arriving in Lagos.

“We are in touch with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Abuja to align our strategies with theirs,” he said.

Abayomi said that the state had instituted structures, policies and human resources that had boosted its resilience and ensure it handled any infectious diseases effectively.

“If we are ever faced with any Ebola, Coronavirus entry into Lagos or Lassa fever, Lagos is constantly preparing itself and it is not a matter of reaction to crisis but advance planning and strategic thinking,” he said.

The commissioner said that the state was prepared to contain the virus, through active surveillance, early detection, isolation, case management, and prevention of onward spread of infection.

Abayomi said that the state would continue to sensitise the public and create awareness about preventive measures to adopt to safeguard their health.

He advised residents to maintain high level of personal and environmental hygiene toward safeguarding themselves from infectious diseases.

NAN reports that the NCDC confirmed the increasing number of Lassa fever cases reported in the country since the beginning of the year.

According to NCDC, 163 cases of the disease have so far been confirmed in nine states with 24 deaths recorded.

Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) caused by Lassa virus.

The natural carrier of the virus is the multimammate rat, but, the disease is also spread through human to human transmission.