By Dipo Olowookere
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has commended the Nigerian government for the way it promptly responded to the recent outbreak of Lassa fever in the country.
However, the body warned that government must not relax because it could surface again and people could be infected throughout the year, making continued efforts to control any new flare ups crucial.
WHO noted that with six weeks of declining numbers and only a handful of confirmed cases reported in recent weeks, the critical phase of Nigeria’s largest-ever Lassa fever outbreak was under control.
In the last reporting week, ending on 6 May 2018, three new confirmed cases of Lassa fever were reported. This year a total of 423 confirmed cases including 106 deaths have been recorded. The national case numbers have consistently declined in the past six weeks, and have dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency when compared with data from previous outbreaks.
“Nigeria is to be congratulated for reaching this important milestone in the fight against Lassa fever,” says Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, Regional Emergencies Director for Africa. “But we cannot let our foot off the pedal. We must use the lessons learnt to better prepare at risk countries in our region to conduct rapid detection and response.”
WHO said it will continue to support the Nigerian government to maintain an intensified response to the current Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria.
Thirty-seven health workers have been infected with Lassa fever, eight have died. This highlights the need for implementing standard infection prevention and control precautions with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices at all times.
WHO continues to help states which have reported new cases by strengthening their capacity to conduct disease surveillance, treat patients, as well as implement infection prevention and control measures, laboratory diagnostics, and engage with communities.
WHO Country Representative Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu said, “Communities are encouraged to remain vigilant and report any rumors to the nearest health facilities because early diagnosis and treatment can save lives.”
Health care workers are urged to maintain a high index of suspicion for Lassa fever when handling patients, irrespective of their health status. Lassa fever should always be considered in patients with fever, headache, sore throat and general body weakness, especially when malaria has been ruled out with a rapid diagnostic test (RDT), and when patients are not improving. Health workers should adhere to standard precautions, and wear protective equipment like gloves, face masks, face shields and aprons when handling suspected Lassa fever patients.
WHO is monitoring and supporting Nigeria’s neighbouring countries to help improve their level of preparedness to readily respond to any potential outbreaks.
Lassa fever is a viral infection, primarily transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine, faeces, or blood.
Person-to-person transmission is through direct or indirect contact with body fluids of an infected person.
Prevention of Lassa fever relies on promoting good community hygiene to keep rats out of the house and prevent contamination of food supplies.
Effective measures include storing grains and other foodstuff in rodent-proof containers, proper disposal of garbage far from the home, and maintaining clean households.
GSK Gets $170m to Produce World’s First Malaria Vaccine
By Adedapo Adesanya
The pharmaceutical company, GSK, has been awarded a contract to produce the world’s first malaria vaccine so that millions more children will be protected against the killer disease.
This was announced by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The value of the deal is about $170 million and will lead to the production of 18 million doses of the RTS,S vaccine being available over the next three years, potentially saving thousands of young lives annually.
Malaria remains one of the biggest killers of children under five. In 2020, nearly half a million boys and girls died from the disease in Africa alone, a rate of one death every minute.
The Director of UNICEFOpens, Etleva Kadilli, stated that Opens in new window rollout sends a clear message to malaria vaccine developers to continue their work.
“We hope this is just the beginning. Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market,” she said.
“This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes”.
Malaria is caused by parasites and transmitted to humans through infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. While the disease is preventable and curable, it can be fatal if left untreated.
More than 30 countries have areas with moderate to high malaria transmission, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHOOpens in new window), and the vaccine could provide added protection to more than 25 million children each year once the supply ramps up.
The RTS,S malaria vaccine – the result of 35 years of research and development – is the first-ever vaccine against a parasitic disease.
Business Post had reported that the Pilot programme was launched in 2019, coordinated by WHO, in three countries – Ghana, Kenya and Malawi – and has reached more than 800,000 children.
Last October, the UN health agency recommended Opens in new windowits widespread use in countries with moderate to high malaria transmission.
That December, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, took the decision to provide funding for malaria vaccine programmes in eligible countries, thus opening the pathway for the broader roll-out of the vaccine.
Speaking on this, CEO Mr Seth Barkley reported that Gavi recently opened the “application window” for funding requests.
“Thanks to UNICEF’s procurement work, we now have more certainty on supply and can move a step further towards getting this life-saving vaccine to the people who need it the most. As manufacturing ramps up over time, we hope that increasing volumes will also lead to more sustainable, lower prices,” he said.
Meanwhile, WHO has welcomed progress in securing supply and timely access to the vaccine so that more countries can introduce it as soon as possible.
“Lives are at stake, every day,” said Dr Kate O’Brien, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, “Given the initial limited supply, it is crucial that children living in areas where the risk of disease and need is highest are prioritized first”.
UNICEF expects that demand for the malaria vaccine will be high among affected countries. As with any new vaccine, supply will be limited at first, the agency said but will increase as manufacturing capacity ramps up over time, which in turn will lead to a decrease in costs per dose.
Medic West Africa Conference to Focus on Healthcare Innovation
By Adedapo Adesanya
Medic West Africa Exhibition and Conference, the biggest gathering of healthcare trade professionals in the West African region, will be making a long-awaited in-person return to the Landmark Centre in Lagos, Nigeria from September 7-9, 2022.
Organised by Informa Markets, the 9th edition of the show will bring together healthcare equipment manufacturers, distributors, procurement professionals, dealers, medical practitioners, and regulators.
More than 5,000 healthcare professionals are expected to attend, with 150 exhibitors representing 32 countries taking part. Addressing post-pandemic market needs, the event will furthermore see the addition of a dedicated space for laboratory professionals for the first time, called “Medlab Area”.
Speaking on this, Amogh Wadwalkar, Exhibition Manager, Medic West Africa, said: “Medic West Africa is the premier healthcare exhibition and conference platform showcasing global healthcare technologies and innovations in support of healthcare solutions in Nigeria and West Africa.
“We look forward to connecting all parties in the healthcare ecosystem as the one-stop shop for all healthcare sourcing and procurement needs in the region, and to unveil the latest innovations in healthcare technology – needed for the urgent transformation of our health infrastructures.”
Among the scheduled exhibitors are leading local and international industry players such as GE Healthcare West Africa, Siemens Healthineers, DCL Laboratories, Erba Manheim, Alpha Specialties, Qiagen, Abbott, and Standard Electro Medical Equipment Company (SEMED).
Products and services on display will include state-of-the-art imaging equipment, laboratory and IVD technology, developments in surgery, advances in prosthetics, and cost-effective disposables, among many others.
In addition, Medic West Africa is set to play host to several interactive sessions, leveraging the expertise of key players in the industry on topical issues for the advancement of the healthcare industry.
According to Cynthia Makarutse, Senior Conference Producer, Medic West Africa, “In collaboration with Nigerian healthcare societies, Medic West Africa conferences will promote dialogue on key stakeholder issues for the advancement of the industry. We connect government stakeholders with leading commercial entities to deliver solutions to topical issues and challenges facing healthcare professionals in West Africa.
“The conference will focus on key post-pandemic outcomes such as innovation and disruption, health equity, and workforce resilience. It is the pre-eminent event for healthcare professionals who value the power of knowledge-sharing, networking, and business”.
Key discussions will occur in the following planned conferences: Healthcare Leadership Conference – Leveraging disruption in healthcare – opportunities & challenges in technology, in partnership with the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria;
Quality Management Conference — Human Resource for Healthcare: Building an efficient and resilient workforce, in partnership with the Society for Quality in Healthcare in Nigeria.
Others include Healthcare Business Conference – Consumer-Driven Healthcare Innovations (CDHIs) – Data, Devices and Digital Health Solutions, in partnership with Healthcare Leadership Academy, and Access to Healthcare Conference – COVID – A socioeconomic phenomenon, in partnership with Bey Health.
Attendance at the Medic West Africa trade exhibition is free for healthcare and trade professionals and interested candidates can visit www.medicwestafrica.com.
WHO, Edo Intensify Response to Combat Monkeypox
By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Edo State government have intensified a coordinated response to contain the spread of the Monkeypox disease.
So far, Nigeria has reported 357 suspected cases with 133 confirmed monkeypox cases from 25 states – Lagos, Adamawa, Delta, Rivers, Edo, Bayelsa, Nasarawa Plateau FCT, Ondo, Anambra Cross River, Kwara, Borno, Taraba, Oyo, Imo, Kano, Katsina, Gombe, Niger Ogun, Kogi, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom and Abia.
Meanwhile, eight persons have so far tested positive for monkeypox in Edo state, and all the people diagnosed with the disease have recovered.
The Director, Public Health, Edo State Ministry of Health, Dr Ojeifo Stephenson, said it has become imperative to warn the residents of the state about the health risks that the virus poses and reiterate the need to be cautious and adhere to preventive measures.
He said the state Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, has ramped up surveillance, diagnostics and other activities to curb the spread of infectious diseases.
“We have stepped up surveillance including prompt investigation of suspected cases, facilitating documentation of contacts, contact tracing and monitoring, as well as developed and disseminated public health advisory to raise awareness about the disease among residents of the state,” he said.
Additionally, Dr Benson Okwara, who works at UBTH, said WHO has been an invaluable partner in the response to monkeypox diagnosis and treatment in the facility.
Dr Okwara has five years of experience in managing patients with monkeypox.
He lamented that the disease spreads within the communities because of the poor health-seeking behaviour and late presentation of the case to the hospital.
“However, with WHO’s coordination, there is an early response following notification of suspected/confirmed cases with detailed case investigations using the monkeypox case investigation form (CIF) to collect data on patient contacts.
“There is a need for continuous risk messaging to educate people about infectious diseases and the importance of seeking medical care early and at appropriate health facilities to prevent the spread of diseases,” he said.
Across Nigeria, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), supported by WHO, has activated Monkeypox Emergency Operations Centre to strengthen in-country preparedness and contribute to the global response to the outbreak.
Furthermore, WHO is supporting the coordination of technical assistance and operational support of partners, including the national One-health risk surveillance and information sharing (NOHRSIS) group, to facilitate timely information exchange on all prioritized zoonotic diseases.
Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease endemic in Nigeria and some parts of Africa.
However, there has been sporadic spread to other countries as more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported across more than 70 countries so far this year, and the number of confirmed infections rose 77 per cent from late June through early July.
The virus is being transmitted from animals to humans.
Recently, WHO activated its highest alert level for the growing monkeypox outbreak, declaring the virus a public health emergency of international concern.
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