Deaths as yellow fever ravages Nigerian communities

Deaths as yellow fever ravages Nigerian communities

Tuesday, November 10, 2020 9:43 am

A yellow fever patient in Sudan. Reuters Photo


With fears of resurgence of COVID-19 still in the air, Nigerians have been confronted with another major health scare with what many state governments had initially described as ‘strange killer disease’ turning out to be yellow fever.

Already, scores of lives have been lost to the infections in the three states where the ‘strange disease’ have so far been confirmed to be yellow fever.

A report on Monday indicated that a strange disease has also killed 11 people in Oyo State, though it was not confirmed if the ravaging killer was also yellow fever.

The latest confirmation of the outbreak of the yellow fever was in Ganjuwa Local Government Area of Bauchi State.

Dr Rilwanu Mohammed, Chairman,  Bauchi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, BSPHCDA said the disease has so far claimed eight lives while eight samples have also tested positive for yellow fever.

“Our polio team were in communities in Ganjuwa for  routine exercise and they found out that eight people died of unknown disease, so they reported back.

“Eight samples were brought for lassa fever and yellow fever  tests and all the samples tested positive for yellow fever.

“Last year, by this time, we had cases of yellow fever in six LGA of Bauchi, Alkaleri, Warji, Ningi, Kirfi and Darazo,” he said.

The chairman said that the community members were predominantly farmers.

Mohammed said that the agency would begin vaccination exercise in earnest against the deadly disease in Ganjuwa LGA.

In the same vein,  Dr Mordi Ononye, Commissioner for Health in Delta says no fewer than 22 deaths have been recorded in Ika North East Local Government Area (LGA) of the state due to yellow fever outbreak.

Ononye told journalists that seven victims are currently receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba.

He said on Oct. 30, the state government received information about a mysterious disease, which had claimed some lives in the area.

He said that the government took blood samples, which tested positive for yellow fever.

“On Oct. 30, we received information about a mysterious death in Ika North East comments; Ute-Okpu, Idum-Assa and Ute-Erumu and we immediately stepped in.

“As at today, about 22 people have died. The team from the ministry is on top of the issue. We have collected blood samples, which test result tested positive for yellow fever,’’ Ononye said.

He said that intervention and treatment for yellow fever had commenced in the communities and samples had been sent to Dakar, Senegal for regional authentication of the test result.

“We have moved into action and have sent the test sample for final authentication at the regional centre in Dakar; we have informed our national body and it has sent a support team.

“I want to assure the people of the state that the team is on top of the issues to check escalation and that there is no need to panic,’’ he said.

The commissioner said that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, African Centre for Disease Control and the State Primary Health Care Development Agency were contacted to ensure the disease was contained.

He said that the government would start yellow fever vaccination from Nov. 9, across the state to be administered on people from nine months and 44 years.

“Yellow fever is caused by a special specie of mosquitoes and it impact is usually on younger people,’’ he said.

Enugu State Government also confirmed that Yellow Fever is the cause of deaths from a reported strange illness in Ette Uno and Umuopu communities of Enugu Ezike town, Igbo-Eze North Area council.

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr Ikechukwu Obi stated that the disease which had claimed about 50 lives so far was confirmed through verifiable diagnostic tests.

According to him, a suspected case is anyone with a sudden onset of fever who develops jaundice (yellowness of the eyes) within 14 days. It is verifiable by diagnostic tests.

The Commissioner disclosed that the Enugu State Ministry of Health has called for an immediate Emergency Operations Centre Meeting, with representatives from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

He invited other implementing partners in the state, to articulate specific next steps to effectively respond to and control the disease in Igboeze North Area council and prevent its spread in Enugu State”.

“We are collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Health and with nearby states to prevent its spread within Nigeria.

“The General Hospital, Enugu Ezike, and other hospitals in the state are prepared to provide the supportive treatment needed for Yellow Fever.

“It is transmitted by the aedes or haemogogus specie of mosquito, causes symptoms within 3 – 6 days of infection, which range from a mild febrile illness in some individuals to a more toxic illness that can unfortunately lead to death in others.

“Only 15 per cent of infected persons enter this toxic phase.

“This is a time to continue in earnest the hygienic practices that we have become used to due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while now improving our environmental hygiene practices.

“Keep our surroundings clean and free of overgrown bushes, ensuring that we do not allow containers and gutters around us to collect water for long periods which allows mosquitoes to breed.

“We should protect our homes by screening doors and windows with nets, and ourselves by sleeping under mosquito nets and wearing clothes that limit mosquito bites,” he said.

The good news is that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is already supporting the states to rein in the killer disease.

Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja, its Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the support became expedient following the reports of a sudden spike in cases and deaths in some communities in the two states.

Ihekweazu said Delta notified the NCDC about cases presenting with symptoms of Yellow Fever) on Nov. 2, while Enugu State followed suit on Nov. 3.

“Most of the cases presented with fever, headache, fatigue, jaundice and vomiting (with or without blood) among others.

“As of Nov. 6, three samples from Delta and one sample from Enugu State tested positive for Yellow Fever at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital Laboratory in Edo and at the NCDC’s National Reference Laboratory in Abuja.

He said more samples were being tested from both states to confirm the causative organism of the outbreak.

The director-general said that epidemiology teams from both state were leading the investigation with support from the NCDC, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the WHO.

He said that the NCDC had activated an incident management system to coordinate response activities and that it had sent Rapid Response Teams (RRT) to the two states.

“They are carrying out active case searches, risk communications and community engagement as well as ensuring prompt management of cases, while our sister agency, the NPHCDA is planning a vaccination campaign.

Yellow fever is a vaccine-preventable disease. A single vaccination provides immunity for life. Symptoms of the disease include yellowness of the eyes, sudden fever, headache and body pain.

“The yellow fever vaccine is available for free in primary health care centres in Nigeria as part of the national childhood routine immunisation schedule, Ihekweazu said.

He advised Nigerians keep their environments clean and free of stagnant water to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes, which cause fevers. He also advised the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Ihekweazu also advised parents to ensure that their children are vaccinated against yellow fever as part of the national childhood routine immunisation schedule.

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