RE: HEADLINE IN THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER - LASSA FEVER: PROHIBITIVE COST OF TREATMENT ENGENDERING HIGH MORTALITY
We read with surprise the headline in the Nigerian Guardian newspaper on Sunday March 11, 2018 stating that the prohibitive cost of treatment is engendering high mortality from Lassa fever. While we acknowledge the high cost of treating Lassa fever cases in Nigeria, especially the cost of the drug Ribavirin, we want to state unequivocally that the Federal Government of Nigeria has ensured that Ribavirin has been provided free-of-charge to patients, for every single case of Lassa fever reported in Nigeria in 2018.
Despite the significant costs, there has not been a single day of stock-out of Ribavirin in any of the treatment centres in Nigeria. No single patient has been deprived of care in in any of the treatment centres in Nigeria because of their ability to pay. In addition to this, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has ensured that every state in Nigeria has an emergency stock of Ribavirin and other response commodities available to manage cases.
In addition to Ribavirin, the treatment centres have been provided with other essential commodities required for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Lassa fever cases. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has had rapid response teams, supporting the state governments of Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi for six weeks supporting all aspects of the response.
The state governments of the Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi States, with the highest burden of Lassa fever have also contributed significantly to the management of cases, ensuring that every single patient has received the best treatment possible. All three state governments have supported treatment centres with dialysis machines and other equipment necessary for the treatment of Lassa fever patients.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has regularly kept Nigerians updated on its efforts to control the Lassa fever outbreak through regular situation reports available on its website (http://www.ncdc.gov.ng/diseases/sitreps), as well as regular press interviews including the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper. Unfortunately, the newspaper house did not contact NCDC to confirm this statement before going to press.
The Honourable Minister of Health in response to the article said:
“While the Nigerian Government has welcomed the support of Non-Governmental Organisations such as the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), they have come to support existing efforts by the Federal Government and State Governments who continue to lead the response to the Lassa fever outbreak”. The Federal Government of Nigeria accepts primary responsibility for the response, a responsibility that we take very seriously.”
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) assures Nigerians that everything possible is being done not only to respond to this outbreak, but to also build our capacity to prevent, detect and respond to future cases of Lassa fever in Nigeria. We urge Nigerians to continue supporting the diligent work being done by Nigerian healthcare workers across the country in this response. Once again, for further updates on the current Lassa fever situation in Nigeria, contact the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on www.ncdc.gov.ng.
NCDC Toll-free Number: 0800-970000-10
Dr. Chikwe Ihekwaezu,
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control
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