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Lassa Fever: Benue Records 9 Deaths, 47 Confirmed Cases

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At least nine deaths have been recorded from 46 confirmed cases of Lassa fever in seven local government areas of Benue State.

State Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Dr Yanmar Ortese, said that five health workers and four Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were among the numbers of confirmed Lassa fever cases in the state.

Ortese, worried by the development, said he was presently in Abuja to discuss the matter with the Director General of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). 

“Right now, I’m in Abuja with the DG of NCDC and I have presented the case of Lassa fever before him so we are discussing it. I have taken it to the national level,” he said.

State Epidemiologist, Dr Sam Ngishe, however, told our correspondent on telephone that the first case of the current Lassa fever outbreak in the state was noticed in week 50 of last year. 

“Altogether, as at this moment, we are speaking from result gotten so far, Benue has 46 cases of Lassa fever spread across seven local government areas of the state to include, Obi, Okpokwu, Gwer West, Makurdi, Guma, Gwer East and Ukum. It’s actually an increase compared to what we had last year. 

“So far, we have nine deaths in confirmed cases as we speak. We have been able to bury all in accordance with safe burial protocols across the various areas of the state where they hailed from,” Ngishe explained.

He said that they have sustained response through the intervention of the Federal Government, World Bank and NCDC, adding that the bodies had spoken loudly to enhance Benue’s surveillance efforts, risk communication in the community as well as spoken to the laboratory component of the response and co-ordinations. 

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UNICEF Donates Ambulance Boats To Boosts Riverine Healthcare In Bayelsa State

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By Gloria Ikibah

United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF has handed over six ambulance boats to the Bayelsa State Government to improve healthcare and emergency response services in riverine communities living in far flung areas.

The ambulance boats, funded by Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), are equipped with medical amenities, and staffed with healthcare personnel trained to provide swift and effective emergency medical assistance, transport patients including pregnant women in labour and newborns to medical facilities and facilitate immunization outreach programmes.

With nearly 100 out of every 1000 children not surviving to see their fifth birthday, infant mortality at 70 per 1000 births, 32 per cent of pregnant women not receiving antenatal care and only about 40 per cent babies delivered in health facilities in Bayelsa State, the ambulance boats are timely to improve survival rates for women and children.

According to UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Ms. Cristian Munduate, “The provision of these ambulance boats represents a critical step towards ensuring that even the most remote communities have access to lifesaving healthcare services.

Deputy Governor, Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, commended UNICEF for the ambulance boats and said it will be used for essential medical intervention.

He said: “These boats will not only serve as a means of transportation for patients but also function as platforms for delivering essential healthcare interventions, such as immunizations, antenatal care, and health education, directly to those in need.

“We are deeply grateful for the donation of these six ambulance boats, which bring hope to our riverine communities. This initiative is an important step in our ongoing efforts to safeguard the lives of our mothers, children, and vulnerable populations across Bayelsa. These boats will not only ensure timely medical interventions but also fortify our resolve to provide equitable healthcare services, irrespective of geographical barriers. Together, we are navigating towards a brighter, healthier future for every citizen of Bayelsa State”.

This initiative builds on the priorities of the Federal Ministry of Health as expressed in the Nigeria Health Renewal Investment Initiative, to make the health system more equitable and efficient, reduce the number of children who have not received any vaccine, and improve immunization coverage.

The delivery of the ambulance boats makes up part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2022 between the Bayelsa State Government, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigeria Governors Forum, GAVI, and UNICEF to improve routine immunization and primary healthcare systems and reduce loss of life, particularly among women and children.

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History-making Nigeria becomes 1st country to roll out new meningitis vaccine

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Nigeria has become the first country to roll out a new meningitis vaccine (Men5CV) recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to WHO, this is especially important for countries like Nigeria where multiple serogroups are prevalent. The new vaccine uses the same technology as the meningitis A conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac®), which wiped out meningococcal A epidemics in Nigeria.

The vaccine and emergency vaccination activities are funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which funds the global meningitis vaccine stockpile and supports lower-income countries with routine vaccination against meningitis.

WHO stated that the revolutionary new vaccine offers a powerful shield against the five major strains of the meningococcal bacteria (A, C, W, Y and X) in a single shot. All five strains cause meningitis and blood poisoning.

This, it noted, provides broader protection than the current vaccine used in much of Africa, which is only effective against the A strain.

The new vaccine is said to have the potential to significantly reduce meningitis cases and advance progress in defeating meningitis.

WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Meningitis is an old and deadly foe, but this new vaccine holds the potential to change the trajectory of the disease, preventing future outbreaks and saving many lives.

“Nigeria’s rollout brings us one step closer to our goal to eliminate meningitis by 2030″.

Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate said: “Northern Nigeria, particularly the states of Jigawa, Bauchi and Yobe were badly hit by the deadly outbreak of meningitis, and this vaccine provides health workers with a new tool to both stop this outbreak but also put the country on a path to elimination.

“We’ve done a lot of work preparing health workers and the health system for the rollout of this new vaccine. We got invaluable support from our populations despite this fasting period and from our community leaders especially the Emir of Gumel in Jigawa state who personally launched the vaccination campaign in the state.

We’ll be monitoring progress closely and hopefully expanding the immunization in the coming months and years to accelerate progress”.

This new multivalent conjugate vaccine was 13 years in the making and was based on a partnership between PATH and the Serum Institute of India.

Financing from the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office was critical to its development.

Nigeria is one of the 26 meningitis hyper-endemic countries of Africa, situated in the area known as the African Meningitis Belt. Last year, there was a 50% jump in annual meningitis cases reported across Africa.

In Nigeria, an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) serogroup C outbreak led to 1742 suspected meningitis cases, including 101 confirmed cases and 153 deaths in seven of 36 Nigerian states (Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe, Zamfara) between 1 October 2023 and 11 March 2024.

To quell the deadly outbreak, a vaccination campaign has been undertaken on 25–28 March 2024 to initially reach more than one million people aged 1-29 years.

Meningitis is a serious infection that leads to the inflammation of the membranes (meninges) that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

There are multiple causes of meningitis, including viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic pathogens. Symptoms often include headache, fever and stiff neck.

Bacterial meningitis is the most serious, can also result in septicaemia (blood poisoning), and can seriously disable or kill within 24 hours those that contract it.

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D£aths recorded as Nigerian Govt confirms outbreak of strange disease

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has confirmed the outbreak of a disease of unknown origin in Sokoto state.

The director general of the agency, Dr Jide Idris, said so far, a total of 164 suspected cases have been identified in six (6) wards of Isa local government area in the following wards: Bargaja (22), Isa North (17), Isa South (98), Tozai (12), Tsabre (4), and Turba (11), adding that four deaths have been recorded amongst the suspected cases.

He said the agency was notified by the Sokoto State Ministry of Health on March 21, 2024, of reported cases of children presenting with symptoms which include abdominal distension due to rapid onset of fluids in the abdomen (ascites), fever, vomiting and weight loss from Isa LGA of Sokoto State.

He said, “Most of these cases are children aged 4 – 13 years, including some adults. The patients came from different wards and settlements across the LGA.”

Dr Idris said the NCDC deployed a National Rapid Response Team (NRRT) to work with the State Ministry of Health to further investigate and respond to this incident.

While saying that a similar incident was previously documented in 2023, also without a definitive diagnosis, he said

currently, two suspected cases are receiving care in Uthman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH) in Sokoto, and one case discharged on account of improved symptoms.

He said, “Four (4) other suspected cases are also on admission at the Isa General Hospital, while about 130 cases are also receiving care either within the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) or home care in the affected LGA.”

The NCDC director general said initial clinical assessment and investigations of the cases admitted at the teaching hospital ruled out an infectious origin of the event, necessitating the need to search for other causes, including heavy metal testing.

He said that results of the initial test for heavy metals for the index and first few suspected cases, revealed different blood levels of lead (Pb) and Chromium (Cr).

He further said that the results of test received yesterday showed high levels of lead in the blood of the affected cases, adding that other test were still being carried out to determine the disease.

He urged members of the affected and nearby communities to be vigilant and report anyone presenting with the stated symptoms to the nearest health facilities to them or call NCDC toll free line .

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