By Oluwakemi Oladipo and Omowunmi Alake
Activities at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, appeared normal in spite of the two recorded deaths and over 100 people under surveillance for Lassa Fever.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondents who visited the hospital report that from the gate, people were seen entering the institution unperturbed.
Patients were also being attended to by doctors and nurses at the Accident and Emergency Unit; hospital cleaners were also seen with masks and gloves cleaning the hospital wards and environment.
However, people were not allowed to enter or move close to the Isolation Centre where over 100 people are still under surveillance.
Some of the hospital staff who spoke anonymously to the correspondents said they were scared of treating patients because they did not want to be the next victims.
According to them, some of the 100 people who are under surveillance are still moving around and working in the hospital.
“Most of us, especially those in the laboratories, work with limited equipment and instruments without appropriate safety measures in place.
“Everybody needs to be very careful because a lot of people came in contact with those two people that died and those that treated them,’’ a health work disclosed to NAN.
The Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) also confirmed that one of their members had tested positive for Lassa Fever.
The President of ARD, LUTH, Dr Adebayo Sekunmade, said that the management of the hospital was managing the situation.
“Some resident doctors volunteered to treat those 100 people under surveillance but we want the management to handle the situation more carefully.
“The volunteer resident doctors and nurses should not come to the general wards or move around the premises.
“They should be appropriately monitored and also protected so as prevent further casualties,’’ Sekunmade said.
Two different people who brought their relatives for treatment at the Accident and Emergency units also spoke to NAN.
Mr Kunle Adeoye said that his sister was transferred from a private hospital to LUTH for treatment.
According to him he is not aware that there is Lassa fever outbreak alert and does not also know how to guard against it.
“I am not aware of the Lassa fever outbreak; I don’t even know how to prevent getting it, I am so concerned about my sister’s treatment.
“I believe the management will handle the situation to avoid further spread of the disease,’’ Adeoye said.
However, Mr Seun Aina… said he heard about the Lassa fever from his sibling and asked that their father, who is in LUTH for treatment, should be treated well without further complications.
“My father is suffering from stroke.’’ he said. “I am scared but I seriously have faith in God that my father will not be infected with the Lassa fever.’’
Reacting, Dr Omojowolo Olubunmi, Consultant Neurologist and NMA Lagos Chairman, said: “LUTH has treated two patients for Lassa fever in the past one week and they both died within few days of admission.
“Each of the two patients presented very late and died in spite of efforts to salvage them.
“The first was a 32-year old pregnant lady with bleeding disorder who died after a stillbirth; post-mortem examination had been conducted before her Lassa fever status was eventually suspected and confirmed.
“No less than 100 different hospital workers exposed to this index case are currently being monitored.
“A resident doctor from the Department of Anatomic and Molecular Pathology, who took part in the autopsy was later confirmed with the disease and is currently on admission and responding well to treatment at the Isolation Ward of LUTH’’.
Omojowolo said that Prof Chris Bode, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of LUTH, had visited the Isolation Centre on Tuesday in the company of his top management staff.
He added that the CMD spoke with the doctors and staff to boost morale and assure them of the hospital’s support.
“He had enjoined all LUTH workers to maintain a heightened level of alert in the wake of this new outbreak and observe universal precautions in handling all suspected cases of this viral hemorrhagic fever.
“LUTH has always worked closely with officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Health in handling a number of diseases of public importance such as rabies, cholera, Lassa fever and the recent spate of diarrhoeal disease at the Queen’s College.
“Both the Lagos State Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Health have responded swiftly to contain this present Lassa fever outbreak,’’ he said.
According to the NMA President, they agencies have mobilised human and material resources to trace the sources and extent of the disease, follow up on potential contacts, identify early and test suspected cases.
“There are adequate materials for containment of the disease while drugs have been made available to treat anyone confirmed with the disease.
“The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Nigeria has also been contacted.
“Two other suspected cases from Lagos State are also presently admitted and quarantined while undergoing confirmatory laboratory tests.’’
Omojowolo described Lassa fever as an acute febrile illness with bleeding and death in severe cases, caused by the Lassa fever virus which has an incubation period of 6 to 21 days.
“The virus, a member of the virus family Arenaviridae is zoonotic or animal-borne.
“About 80 per cent of human infections are without symptoms; the remaining cases have severe multiple organ disease, where the virus affects several organs in the body such as the liver, spleen and kidneys.
“Lassa fever virus’ host is the `multimammate rat’ called Mastomys natalensis which has many breasts and lives in the bush and around residential areas.’’
On the mode of transmission, he said: “The virus is shed in the urine and droppings of the rats, hence can be transmitted through direct contact, touching objects or eating food contaminated with these materials or through cuts or sores.
“Its transmission also occurs in health facilities where infection prevention and control practices are not observed.
“Person to person transmission also occurs, especially when a person comes in contact with the virus in the blood tissue, secretions or excrements of an infected individual.
“The onset of the disease is usually gradual, starting with fever, general weakness, muscle and joint pains, prostration and malaise.
“After a few days, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough and abdominal pain may follow,’’ he told NAN.
“In severe cases facial swelling, fluid in the lung cavity, bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract and low blood pressure may develop; shock, seizures, tremor, disorientation and coma and death may be seen in the later stages.
“In case of any suspected case of Lassa fever, notify the response team in LUTH on 08058019466, 08058744780, 07035521015 and 08023299445,’’ Omojowolo said. (NAN)