By Lucky Isibor
The Chief Medical Director of Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, ISTH, Irrua, Prof. Sylvanus Okogbenin, has advocated the deployment of multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach for the control of Lassa Fever in Nigeria.
Professor Okogbenin made the call Thursday, in a welcome address he delivered at the National Intensive Clinical Workshop on Diagnosis and Management of Lassa Fever organised by Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in collaboration with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC at Irrua.
He noted that Lassa Fever has become a public health challenge since the first case was reported in North Eastern Nigeria in 1969 adding that the epidemic has amplified, crossing over borders to infect populations in areas previous unaffected pointing out that it has spread from 8 in 2008 to 20 states in 2018.
The Chief Medical Director disclosed that ISTH, Irrua was designated a centre of excellence for the management and control of Lassa Fever in Nigeria in 2001 in recognition of its initiative and exceptional leadership in Lassa Fever control which culminated in the establishment of the Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control in 2007.
According to him, “ISTH was established in 1993, and in recognition of its initiative and leadership in Lassa Fever control, the Federal Government of Nigeria designated the hospital as a Centre of Excellence for the Management and Control of Lassa Fever in Nigeria in 2001.
“Over the years, we have build substantial capacity and gathered enormous experience in the management and control of Lassa Fever.
“We realized that no single facility or institution can effectively wage the war against Lassa Fever. A multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach is needed,” he said.
While enjoining participants to be attentive and interactive, Okogbenin said they have a lot to learn from ISTH laboratory personnel who have received trainings in some of the best centres in Europe and America.
“At ISTH, our major strength is the dedicated human resources- in the laboratory, case management and community engagement. Our laboratory personnel have received training in some of the best centers in Europe and America, with the support of our research collaborators (Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Germany; Harvard University and Public Health England).
“Indeed, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital has diagnosed and managed more Lassa Fever cases than any other health facility in the world.
“This training workshop is intended to share our modest experience in the management and control of Lassa Fever and other VHFs, from the laboratory and public health perspective. At the Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control, ISTH, we also offer short term hands-on training on Lassa Fever case management, laboratory diagnosis and infection prevention and Control, to doctors, nurses and laboratorians.”
In his remarks, the chief executive officer and national coordinator of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu said Lassa fever has become endemic in Nigeria pointing out that it will be here for some time.
Dr Ihekweazu who was represented by Mr Michael Popoola, a laboratory scientist in NCDC, said “there is an increasing global health focus on Lassa Fever and the work we do is at the centre of this.
“Therefore, this collaboration with the Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control that has vast experience in managing cases is very critical for us. We hope that at the end of the training, you are better empowered to take ownership of Lassa Fever case management in your State”.
Also speaking, the Director, Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control, ISTH, Dr. Ephraim Ogbaini, said the training workshop which is the second in 2018 by ISTH and NCDC, is to strengthen the capacity of the Nigerian health worker to respond effectively to the present and future Lassa Fever outbreaks in the country.
Dr. Ogbaini disclosed that the the mission of the Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control is ” to reduce and ultimately eliminate the contribution of Lassa Fever to morbidity and mortality from communicable diseases and to apply the experience and gains in the Lassa Fever control program to the control of other Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers, IHV in Africa.