Effective Communication - Bedrock of outbreak management
In the reporting week (week 10), the Lassa fever outbreak is active in 13 States of Nigeria. No new State reported having an outbreak. However, seven new suspected cases were reported from four States that had reported previously. A total of 18 newly confirmed cases were reported from three States following testing for Lassa fever and other VHFs. Three deaths were reported. A total of 267 suspects have so far been reported since onset of the outbreak in December 2016. Of this, 91 have been confirmed positive for Lassa fever and 6 probable cases. A total of 46 deaths have been reported, of which 40 were in confirmed cases and 6 in probable cases. The case fatality rate for confirmed/probable is 47.4% and for all cases is 21%.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has continued to provide support (on-site and off-site) to the affected States. The team dispatched to Borno State by the NCDC has been involved in providing support for outbreak response, case management and infection, prevention and control. The NCDC has continued to remain in the forefront of coordinating the response in the current outbreak. Bridging the Gap in Outbreak Notification from the Epicenter of Lassa Fever
Edo State is endemic for Lassa fever and is known as the Epicentre of Lassa fever in Nigeria. The Lassa Fever Research institute is domiciled in the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH) in Edo State. ISTH has been in the forefront of managing Lassa fever cases in the last 15 years and is a referral centre for laboratory testing and management of Lassa fever cases in Nigeria. Outbreaks of Lassa fever in Edo State are managed by the State and ISTH.
In this reporting week, Edo State reported a total of 13 confirmed cases of Lassa fever. However, the NCDC did not receive any notification of when the cases were first identified and as such, a deviation from the recommended flow of information in outbreak situations under the IDSR strategy. This presents a difficult situation, particularly when attempts are made to contain an outbreak. A coordinated and collaborative approach is necessary in containment of outbreaks, especially those of national and international magnitude. The good work being done by co lleagues at the ISTH is not lost on us, as they have played and continue to play a key role in the containment of Lassa fever outbreaks. Notwithstanding this however, there should be an inclusion of the dynamics in communication strategy as other faster and more effective methods have been approved for communication in surveillance. Phone calls, SMS and WhatsApp chats are some of the platforms that have been approved for use in surveillance. The NCDC Connect Centre has a toll-free line- 080097000010 and WhatsApp- 08099555577. The NCDC will continue to spread its tentacles in providing the needed support to affected States. These States have the responsibility of working together with the NCDC and other stakeholders and providing the needed information for all to work with. A well-coordinated surveillance team is the bedrock of an efficient and effective surveillance structure.