The dry season brings with it many diseases which may range from mild to life threatening. However, in Nigeria, major diseases that are usually more prevalent during the dry season are Lassa fever, cerebrospinal meningitis and yellow fever, experts said.
Because of the seeming danger linked with these diseases, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) has called on Nigerians to be careful as the country prepares for the harmattan season. This was the crux of the matter at a brainstorming session in Abuja, organised by the NCDC and civil society organisations to sensitise the populace and discuss NCDC’s preparedness for the season and how the media can support.
Team lead, Lassa fever technical working group, Elsie Ilori said NCDC’s preparation includes the development and maintenance of national, intermediate and local or primary response level public health emergency response plans for relevant biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear hazards. She said: “This covers mapping of potential hazards, identification and maintenance of available resources, including national stockpiles and the capacity to support operations at the intermediate and local or primary response levels during a public health emergency.”
She said NCDC 2018 to 2019 strategic reforms for the fight against Lassa fever includes a shift from reactionary response to proactive preparedness and response; adoption of stronger health mechanism; the use of June to May calendar as opposed to December to December cycle; incorporation of stronger research and innovation and development of a five-year strategic plan towards the reduction of overall burden of Lassa fever.
But Ilori added that government too has a part to play in helping the institution achieve its aim. According to her, federal government’s support of state government in preparedness is needed to scale response if needed and support laboratory diagnosis. “State government can support by educating the public, train health workers, identify primary isolation centres in state capital, support training and logistics and develop public health laboratory in secondary or tertiary care facility; while local government can support in logistics of DSNOs to identify cases based on Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response, IDSR guidelines and report.”
Other sectors that she called upon to assist the institution includes the agriculture sector. “In the development of sanitation, pest control and food storage messages, and also rolling out of large scale rodent trapping/control effort. The ministry of environment and information can also help in the development of sanitation and hygiene messaging, ensuring adequate garbage disposal, passing across effective communication and public enlightenment information based on harnessed messaging and development and distribution of information, education and communication materials respectively.”
Dr. Olaolu Aderinola, also of the NCDC, who spoke on cerebrospinal meningitis, said there is a need to prepare for the season. He said Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) is a disease characterised by inflammation of the meninges (protective membrane covering the brain and the spinal cord) which can be caused by a variety of microbial pathogens, including viral and bacterial organisms.
He explained that CSM is a deadly disease, which may kill up to 50 per cent of cases if untreated and may result in brain damage, hearing loss or disability in 10-20 per cent of survivors. The doctor, who said there is no first aid treatment for meningitis, added that as soon as one gets a fever, he or she should go to the hospital as using pain killers will only shoot down the temperature but the bacteria will continue to spread.
Speaking on the signs and symptoms of meningitis, he said the “incubation period (time interval between invasion by an infectious agent and appearance of the disease) is 2 to 10 days. Other signs include fever, headache, neck stiffness, vomiting, sensitivity to light, altered level of consciousness, coma while in infants-budging of the fontanelle, excessive crying, high pitched cry, refusal to feed.
“Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate treatment is started, 8-15 per cent of patients die, often within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. If untreated, meningococcal meningitis is fatal in 50 per cent of cases and may result in brain damage, hearing loss or disability in 10-20 per cent of survivors,” he said.
The medical doctor identified 26 states in Nigeria’s meningitis belt. They include Adamawa, Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, FCT, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara states. He said the risk factors and disease promoters are living in crowded areas, close and prolonged contact – such as sneezing or coughing on someone, kissing or living in close quarters with a carrier, smoking, high atmospheric temperature, and low humidity.
Explaining efforts NCDC has taken in terms of preparedness and surveillance, Dr. Aderinola said his team has reviewed the preparedness and response of the last outbreak to improve on preparedness and response for the next season. “We have met with other countries with meningitis at a meeting in Dakar, Senegal. We have communicated with the state epidemiologist (disease detectives) to improve case finding and reporting. Our CSM technical working group has been preparing at NCDC working on actualising the epidemic preparedness response plan. We have distributed CSM preparedness and response guidelines to states and written letters to State Commissioners for Health on preparedness and response,” he added.
On surveillance, he noted that NCDC has communicated with the state epidemiologists (disease detectives) to improve case finding and reporting; improving electronic capturing of cases through a tool called the Surveillance Outbreak Response Management Application System (SORMAS); while for logistics he said NCDC has distributed CSM preparedness and response guidelines to states and has decided that treatment with ceftriaxone will be prepositioned to support the states.
Continuing, he said: “for laboratory testing, state public health laboratories have been assessed to know their capacities for testing; training of laboratorians is ongoing in the higher risk states; arrangements have been made for CSF transportation from the state capitals to the national reference laboratory in Abuja for confirmatory testing.” The 26 states in the meningitis belt have also been sent letters which contained messages that include advice that the states should strengthen active surveillance and notification for meningitis in communities and health facilities.
NCDC Risk Communications officer, Chimezie Anueyiagu who spoke on how NCDC is engaging general public and media, talked about Integration Disease Surveillance Response, (IDSR), a tool to promote rational use of resources by integrating and streamlining common surveillance activities. He noted that there is a high improvement in response of states as regards collaboration with the NCDC.
By: Medinat Kanabe
The Nation News
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