Two patients being treated for Lassa fever at Lagos University Teaching Hospital have died in one week, only days after they were hospitalized.
Both patients are said to have been hospitalized after the Lassa infection had gone on for too long.
Officials have put under surveillance at least 100 hospital workers who may have had contact with the patients.
The first of the patients, a 32-year-old pregnant woman, had bleeding problems after having a stillbirth. A post-mortem exam confirmed her positive for Lassa.
A pathologist who took part in her autopsy has also been confirmed positive and is hospitalized at LUTH’s isolation ward, where he is said to be responding to treatment.
The hospital’s chief medical director Chris Bode, who visited the patient on a morale-boosting tour on Tuesday, has called on staff to maintain “heightened level of alert” in the wake of the outbreak.
The hospital says it has notified the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. It has also put up response lines where the public can report suspected cases of Lassa fever.
Humans infect other humans through direct contact with infected body fluids: urine, blood, sputum.
Infected humans must be isolated to avoid human to human transmission.
Close contacts of infected individuals and health workers who do not observe standard infection control practices are at increased risk of being infected.
There is a good chance of cure with an antiviral agent called Ribavirin when treatment starts within the first week of the illness. However, Ribavirin is avoided in pregnant women because of the risk to the foetus.
Health workers also provide supportive care with intravenous fluids, blood transfusion and medications for seizures as might be required.
Primary prevention involves avoidance of contact with rats. This tends to be heightened following bush burning. The rats are displaced from their natural habitat so they come close to homes in search of alternative abode.
Experts advise that bushes and clutter around homes must be cleared to make the surrounding unattractive to rats; food, cooking utensils and drinking water must be kept in rat-proof containers; and to avoid using rats as food sources.
To avoid human-to-human transmission, close contacts of individuals with illness involving fever that does not respond to treatment for malaria should wear gloves to touch body fluids.
Health workers must wear gloves, protective gowns and masks while caring for individuals suspected of Lassa fever.
Hospitalized suspected cases must be isolated and contact with staff of the hospital minimised: individualised equipments must be provided for such patients. Separate thermometers, blood pressure apparatus, bath utensils must be provided.
And specific team of health workers must be identified to care for suspected cases who must be nursed in isolation.
A high index of suspicion is required on the part of health workers for early detection and chance of curative treatment.