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Lassa Fever: FG Confirms 41 Deaths In 19 States

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The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has confirmed that as of yesterday, 258 cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed with death toll at 41, reported from 19 states.
Also, majority of the cases are from Ebonyi, Edo and Ondo states.
He explained that though the disease is endemic in the country due to our particular ecological profile, the responsibility of curbing its spread is the responsibility of everyone – government, NGOs, development partners etc.
Ehanire, who made this known, yesterday in a press briefing in Abuja, said that “Lassa fever is a disease that is indigenous to our country because it occurs every year, particularly in dry season. This year there has been an increase of Lassa fever reporter across the country. As of the 28th of January, 2020, 258 confirmed cases and 41 deaths have been reported in 19 states, with majority of the cases from Ebonyi, Edo and Ondo states.
“Given the tropical climate in Nigeria and the abundance of the disease vectors in our environment, the high risk of infectious diseases like Lassa fever is high all over the country.
“Despite the increase in confirmed cases, the overall case fatality rate for 2020 has been just about 15 percent compared to the same in 2019 which was 20 percent and few years ago the case fatality rate was over 30 percent”.
About what the government is doing to control and manage the spread of the Lassa fever virus, Ehanire explained that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated a National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), to coordinate responses to the increasing number of Lassa fever cases across the country.
According to him, “The National EOC, which was constituted on the 24th of January, 2020, includes representatives from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Environment, World Health Organization, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control, and other partners.
“While we are gradually moving towards achieving a single digit fatality rate, we will continue to support response activities like surveillance and contact tracing in affected states through the deployment of rapid response teams for improved case management and outcomes. The rapid response teams have so far been deployed to five states – Ebonyi, Enugu, Kano, Borno and Ondo states.
“It is important for health workers to maintain a high index of suspicion and practice universal health precautions to protect themselves from infections by using surgical masks, gloves, laboratory coats and aprons. Further information on Lassa fever can be obtained from the following numbers – 08099555577”.
Concerning the number of health workers that are affected by the Lassa fever, the Director of Prevention, Programmes and Knowledge Management of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Joshua Obasanya, said: “6 healthcare workers were affected – 5 were confirmed and one probable, meaning we are not able to isolate the virus. We lost two of the health workers”.
Concerning the novel Coronavirus, the minister, explained that it was necessary to do a press briefing in order to counter the misinformation and disinformation circulating social media and other forms of conversations and reports.
He explained that the Federal Ministry of Health is working with relevant ministries and agencies to strengthen surveillance, preparedness and response to public health emergencies at our various points of entry.
According to him, “There is high-level inter-ministerial consultation towards setting up a multisectoral committee to scale up surveillance and vigilance to detect suspicious cases and ensure containment at all points.
“The committee shall comprise of critical stakeholders in the health, security, aviation and transport sectors and also include Development Partners. Bearing in mind that air travellers, rather than land border crossers, are more likely carriers of this type of virus, attention will focus largely on our five international airports.
“The ministry is finalizing plans to engage state authorities in Enugu, Lagos, Kano, Rivers states and FCT, to enhance surveillance, preparedness and response activities in their domains. We shall meet with each of them one-on-one.
“The on-going surveillance strategy at Air Points of Entry involves automatic body temperature screening with thermal scanners, which detect any passengers with fever, and focused visual observation of passengers, who may be showing signs and symptoms of being unwell. Where any passenger is observed to meet the slightest index of suspicion, he will be politely invited to step aside for a chat, where the travel history is obtained; this is to determine where the suspect case has travelled to and from in the last two months”.
He explained that the risk factor to Coronavirus depends largely on air travel volume. Nigeria has a moderate risk factor because we do not have the huge air travel volume that other high risks countries have.
“The first suspect case in Africa is said to be in Ivory Coast and is not a Chinese but a student who came back when she heard of the outbreak and quickly bought ticket and left, but arrived the country with symptoms that look like Coronavirus. But it hasn’t been confirmed to my knowledge.
Commenting on whether the country has the capacity to test and contain the Coronavirus in the event that it happens, Ehanire said: “We have very good laboratories here and our laboratory assets are increasing. The fact is that if you want to test for a particular disease, you have to have a reagent for it. The reagents we have do not cover this new Coronavirus yet, so the samples will be taken and sent to a place. The WHO will advise all countries where to send their samples to for testing. Government has been providing resources needed as we request.
According to the director of Port Health services of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Alex Okoh, “For those cases that do not manifest at the ports of entry, this is where it becomes very important to engage the states. The states are expected to ensure mobilization of their population, sensitize them and make them aware so that should any member of the community show symptoms, they can take the appropriate steps and go to health facilities.
Also, Obasanya, said: “About the Chinese holiday, we have had a meeting with the Chinese Embassy and have agreed that we share information in case somebody is identified in Nigeria. This way we are able to trace it back to China and all the contacts will also be traced. We will also be working with Chinese companies and employees. The Chinese embassy has also sent advisories to Chinese employees that they should delay coming back to Nigeria”.
In Gombe, no fewer than seven suspected cases of Lassa fever have been recorded.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Ahmed Gana, who disclosed this in Gombe, yesterday, said out of the seven suspected cases, two were confirmed, with one of the confirmed cases dead and the other treated and discharged.
Gana also disclosed that one out of the five suspected cases died while awaiting laboratory confirmation and the remaining four were undergoing treatment at the isolated ward of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Gombe.
According to him, the first confirmed case was from Ibbi Local Government Area of Taraba which was presented at the Teaching Hospital Gombe, where he was diagnosed of Lassa fever and he was treated and discharged.
He added that the second case was brought unconscious from Bayo council area in Borno and he died while awaiting the result of confirmation.
Gana further said that the state Governor, Inuwa Yahaya, has approved the procurement of additional healthcare materials for effective prevention and management of the outbreak in the state.
The arrangement includes free treatment and feeding of suspected persons as well as persons with confirmed cases.
He, therefore, called on the public to ensure they take preventive measures including storing of food in protective covers, personal hygiene and environmental sanitation, as well as report any suspected cases to the nearest hospital.
Similarly, three of the four people admitted over suspected Lassa fever in Adamawa State have been discharged after testing negative.
The Adamawa Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Prof. Abdullahi Isa, made this known, yesterday while giving update on the outbreak of Lassa fever in the state.
Isa, however, said that a woman brought from Numan Local Government who tested positive had died, while those that came into contact with the woman would remain under observation for 21 days.
According to him, the deceased was a pregnant woman who suffered a stillbirth while her affliction lasted.
He said, “The index case was a 29-year-old woman from Numan Local Government Area who was first seen as a gravid patient in a private health facility here in Yola on January 18, 2020, and referred to FMC Yola on January 21, 2020. There, she expelled a macerated still birth.”
The commissioner said after the woman was suspected of the Lassa fever virus, her blood sample, and that of three other people, was taken and sent to a reference laboratory in Abuja where she tested positive for Lassa fever virus while the other three were negative “as revealed by the result on the January 25, 2020.”
He added that while the 29-year-old woman died, the other three suspected cases who were from Yola North, Yola South and Girei LGAs had since been discharged from hospital following their clearance.
The commissioner said that the state government had already activated its emergency operation centre for management of response activities on daily basis.
He added that other measures taken to contain the outbreak included public enlightenment on prevention and control measures and re-orientation of health facility staff on infection prevention and control practices and case management.
He explained that “the public should keep their homes and surroundings clean to avoid contact with rats and other rodents.
“They should always keep their foodstuff in rodent-proof containers and avoid drying of food items in open space.
“They should set traps for rats or keep cats to chase away rodents.
“They should observe universal precautions whenever they came in contact with any patient, regardless of infection status.
“The Ministry of Health is assuring the public of controlling this outbreak in the shortest possible time and needs the cooperation of all.
“Our sincere condolences to the bereaved family and close associates,” the commissioner said.
He assured that his ministry had taken steps for prevention and control, including contact tracing through identification, line listing and follow-up of contacts for the next 21 days, and state-wide public enlightenment campaign.
He advised members of the public to keep their homes and surroundings clean to avoid contact with rats and to quickly report suspected cases to the nearest health facility.
However, the management of Federal Medical Centre, Jalingo, Taraba State, has confirmed that a medical doctor who is a house officer has tested positive to Lassa fever in the state.
The Acting Head, Clinical Service of the Hospital, Dr Ahmed Jatau disclosed this to newsmen, yesterday.
He explained that six suspected cases of Lassa fever tested positive, of which, four deaths were recorded.
He noted that the affected medical doctor is currently undergoing treatment at Irrua Specialist Hospital, Edo State.
According to him, “we have sent 10 samples to NCDC which 6 of those were tested positive to Lassa fever.
“Out of the six confirmed cases, four have died before their result came in.
“Out of the remaining two, one has been discharged while the other who is our own staff has been transferred to Irrua Specialist Hospital for further treatment because we don’t have a dialysis unit here.
“The information from the specialist hospital is that he is doing well after the first dialysis session.
“We have also fumigated the house officers quarters against rodents.”
Meanwhile, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), in the state, Maigodiya Centre which has been in the forefront of sensitizing members of the public on how to prevent themselves from Lassa fever has called on government to do more to prevent fatalities in recorded Lassa fever cases.
The Director of the CSO, Aliyu Tukur, noted that reactive response to yearly outbreak of the virus has led to recurrent fatalities, which he said could have been prevented, if government was proactive.
He admonished government to combine massive sensitization of the public with provision of adequate health facilities to confirm and treat cases of Lassa fever in the country.
Nevertheless, the Benue State Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr Sunday Ongbabo, yesterday, confirmed that one person has been infected with Lassa fever in the state.
Ongbabo, in an interview with newsmen in Makurdi, said the infected woman has been confined at an Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) in a medical facility within the state for proper treatment.
He also noted that contact tracing of those who might have come in contact with the infected person was ongoing while all measures had been put in place to curtail any spread.
Also, the state’s epidemiologist, Dr. Sam Ngishe, corroborated the commissioner, stressing that the Lassa fever patient is responding to treatment.
Ngishe added that they are following up contacts even as the ministry of health has embarked on publicity while arrangements are underway to pay traditional institutions in the state sensitisation visit aimed at creating awareness of the virus in rural vicinities.
But, the Chairman of Medical Advisory Committee at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH), Prof. Olusayo Alao, explained that the 40-year-old woman from Okpoga in Okpokwu area of the state tested positive to the Lassa fever virus at the weekend after suspicion heightened when she reported unabbating fever.
Alao said that samples taken from the female patient for testing had confirmed the suspicion as he used the opportunity to rule out rumours of any death recorded so far.
“There has been no case of mortality in the state since the recent outbreak of Lassa fever in the country. We got confirmation of only one case at the weekend and she is recovering,” he said.
Alao also emphasised that no health worker in the state had been infected just as he informed that the state’s ministry of health was doing its best to equip workers with necessary items to carry out their duties effectively.
In October, last year, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed five persons dead from the outbreak of Lassa fever in the state.
The Programmes Officer, Risk Communications Desk of NCDC, Hanatu Bello, who had made the confirmation at a news conference in Makurdi, said that 21 suspected cases of Lassa fever was received from the state out of which eight cases were confirmed while five infected persons died.

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North Can Live Without VAT Accruals, NEF Boasts …Backs Wike, Southern Govs On Fiscal Federalism, Restructuring

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The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has boasted that the North was a rich region, and can survive on its resources without the “billions” accruing to Southern states.
The NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, made this known, yesterday, when he featured on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ breakfast programme.
He was reacting to the tussle between states and the Federal Government on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT).
VAT is a consumption tax paid when goods are purchased and services are rendered, and charged at a rate of 7.5 per cent.
Although Rivers and Lagos states have started the process of collecting VAT within their territories, the Court of Appeal, in a ruling on September 10, ordered that status quo be maintained pending the determination of an appeal filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) against the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt.
Apart from Lagos and Rivers states, Ogun State has also started the process of passing a bill on VAT in its House of Assembly.
At the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting in Enugu, last Thursday, the 17 governors insisted that they have the constitutional mandate to collect VAT, and vowed to ensure that the rule of law prevails in the matter.
While some northern governors like Aminu Masari (Katsina), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), amongst others, had kicked against the move, the 17 Southern Governors led by Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) had unanimously supported the position that “the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.”
Speaking, yesterday, during the television programme, Baba-Ahmed said, “I will advise that we wait to hear what the court says. However, even the fact that it has become an issue suggests that we really do need to address the fundamentals and the manner in which the federation works.
“We have always supported restructuring. We have always asked that a major and genuine shift initiative either by groups or the National Assembly so that matters like this be addressed properly.
“If we don’t do that now, then, we should get a leader that would do that in 2023. This administration appears not to understand the importance of restructuring; we do in the North, we recognise the fact that we need to change the manner in which we generate wealth and allocate (it).
“The thing is: the North wants restructuring; the North wants fiscal federalism. We are a rich region, and we can live on what we have, even if we don’t have the billions that accrue to others states. Our poverty is not a kind of problem that we would break this country over.”
According to him, the VAT war is a wake-up call to northern governors who need to recognise the fact that VAT or no VAT, they need to develop their resources and develop the human capital of the North.
The NEF spokesman added, “North, you said you have many people but you are under-developing your own people – the biggest liability of the North is that we have a huge population that is under-developed. You need to develop the human capital that you have.
“We need leaders; the current governors don’t recognise this. Otherwise, they won’t be involved in this argument; allow the court to decide.
“But for goodness sake, (they should) begin to think — what else can we do if the court decides now that Rivers State is right, Lagos State is right, and the Southern states are right, and they won’t be getting all these billions coming in from VAT? What happens?”
Baba-Ahmed said the Northern governors at this stage should not be sleeping, noting that the North is “sitting on wealth, we have massive resources in this country, we have to fight insecurity first, and the Federal Government has to help us, we need to clear the bushes, the forests and all the criminals that are there, and we need to go back to farming.
“Agriculture is a major asset; we have land, we have water, we have livestock, we have minerals that are literally begging to be picked from the ground but our governors are too focused on the pittance that they are getting. This is wrong”, he argued.

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Boxing: Joshua Facing Toughest Test In Usyk?

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Boxing champion, Anthony Joshua could face his toughest test yet when he fights Oleksandr Usyk in London on Saturday, says ex-world champion George Groves.
Joshua, 31, puts his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on the line against Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion.
The 34-year-old Ukrainian has won all 18 professional fights, beating Tony Bellew and Derek Chisora on that run.
“Technically, Usyk is brilliant,” said Groves . “He showed that in unifying the cruiserweight division in great fights and I believe he could be Joshua’s toughest test to date. This is the first fight when I wouldn’t be surprised if Joshua got beaten.
“Joshua has fought [Wladimir] Klitschko and been in with Joseph Parker and also been beaten [by Andy Ruiz] and the only question mark for Usyk Is he big enough to compete with AJ?
“If Usyk keeps a high pace and makes Joshua miss with a lot of shots, that will work to Usyk’s advantage as he has probably got a better engine.
“Joshua is a phenomenal athlete with tremendous punching power and strength but has a tendency to tire out if the pace is uncomfortable for him.”
A crowd of more than 60,000 is expected and it will be the largest attendance Joshua has fought in front of since his win over Alexander Povetkin with 80,000 at Wembley Stadium in September, 2018.
Since then, Joshua has lost to Ruiz in New York before winning the rematch in Saudi Arabia and gained a ninth-round victory over Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena last December, with only 1,000 fans attending because of Coronavirus restrictions.
Both Joshua and Usyk won gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, at super-heavyweight and heavyweight respectively, with the Briton going on to win 24 of his 25 professional fights, including 22 inside the distance.
Meanwhile, Dillian Whyte, who lost to Joshua in 2015 and is pushing for a rematch with him or a shot at WBC champion, Tyson Fury, believes the key to beating Usyk on Saturday is to adopt an attacking strategy.
“I think it’s a great fight and Joshua will stop him in the first six or seven rounds,” Whyte told Tidesports source.
“Usyk will start fast and Joshua should be cagey as Usyk is a bit lighter. Joshua can sometimes lack confidence but hopefully he goes back to the old him, starts pressing, being the bigger, stronger guy and gets the job done early.
“If Joshua sets the pace, he can get an early knockout and if he is strong, confident and walks him down, then I don’t see Usyk’s punches troubling Joshua.”
Groves, who held the WBA Super-Middleweight belt in 2017 and 2018, added: “If I was Joshua, I would take control of the ring and try to dominate and bully off the front foot.
“Usyk will want to be off the back foot for the first couple of rounds, then try to pepper Joshua.
“If I was in the Joshua camp, I would say: You want to keep this guy in his box. You don’t want Usyk having any confidence, so hit him hard and early.
“In the first three rounds, you want to land something big on him.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn also suggested Joshua could get an early victory.
Hearn said: “I’m always nervous for an Anthony Joshua fight, especially when you’re fighting someone that really believes he is going to win”.

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2022 AFCON: ‘Cameroon On Track’

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Patrice Motsepe, has said that Cameroon is “on track” to successfully host the Africa Cup of Nations early next year after visiting Olembe Stadium in Yaounde last weekend.
The venue will host the opening match and final of the AFCON in January and February of 2022.
A CAF delegation, including President Motsepe and General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, were joined by Cameroon’s Sports Minister, Professor Narcisse Mouelle Kombi in inspecting progress made at the Olembe Stadium and various other facilities in the capital city.
“I’m very satisfied with the briefing I got and what I saw. I saw the Olembe Stadium and it is world class; we should all be proud as people of Cameroon and as Africans,” said Motsepe, as quoted by CAF’s website.
“We must applaud Cameroon [for] building such infrastructure. In partnership with the Government, the Minister of Sports, LOC, FECAFOOT President and CAF administration under Veron [Mosengo-Omba], I’m certain that in January next year, the rest of the world will be impressed. I’m very satisfied with what I have seen. We are on track.”
Motsepe continued: “The quality of football that will be played here will once again show the world that Africa has the quality to one day win the FIFA World Cup, that is the ultimate goal. The AFCON is special and I think it is important for us to set the tone in Cameroon.”
Mosengo-Omba also heaped praises on Olembe Stadium: “The infrastructure and architecture of the stadium is world class and can be compared to many other famous stadiums globally. In Cameroon, we have six beautiful match venues. Our job now is to ensure that we are ready with everything else.”

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