Mike Ogirima, president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), has advised doctors not to treat patients with traces of Lassa fever without using protective gadgets.
Ogirima stated this at a recent interview in Abuja where he expressed displeasure over the death of some doctors while trying to save lives of Lassa fever patients.
The NMA president, who is a professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, said that the association had lost four of its members in January to Lassa fever.
“This is a sad month in the country, particularly for health workers who lost their lives while trying to save the lives of others. “This is because health workers are the first point of call in cases of disease outbreak and they are not provided with the necessary gadgets in emergency rooms hence, these casualties.” He said.
Adding that “Medical practice entails that when you have contact with a patient, leaving one patient to the other, you have to disinfect your hands before touching another. This is to avoid infecting another patient, but the reverse is the case,” he stated. The NMA president described the development as “a pitiable situation’’.
Ogirima also decried at the poor working environment of the doctors, saying that emergency rooms lacked optimal equipment that could protect doctors and other health workers from disease transmission.
“When patients are taken to emergency room, there are no examination gloves, hand sterilisers, among other protective gadgets. None of my colleagues should attend to patients, if protective gadgets are not provided because it is risky” the NMA president advised.
Ogirima, however, called for the provision of protective gadgets for its members and other health workers to forestall further deaths of doctors due to Lassa fever, among other infectious diseases.
Since the beginning of 2018, a total number of 107 suspected Lassa fever cases have been recorded in 10 states: Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Kogi, Imo and Lagos States.
As at January 21, the total number of confirmed cases is 61, with 16 deaths recorded. Ten healthcare workers have been infected in four states of Ebonyi 7, Nasarawa 1, Kogi 1, and Benue 1, with three deaths.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has however taken sensitisation on Lassa fever to Wuse market in Abuja to educate traders on ways to prevent the viral infection.
The chairman of the Association Achonwa Chiedozie, said that the awareness was necessary due to the outbreak that was recorded in some states. Hence, the need to bring the awareness to the market because many market men and women may not have time to listen to the radio, watch television or read papers on the dangers of Lassa fever.
The Lassa virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces and contact with body fluid of infected person. The chairman advised the general public to avoid contact with rats and infected persons. According to him, regular washing of hands is key in the prevention of Lassa fever.
Chiedozie however enjoined residents of the territory to keep their food stuff in rodents “proof containers” to avoid contact of rats. He said that though, no confirmed case of Lassa fever in FCT, but there was need to take precaution to prevent the outbreak of the disease in the territory.