Suspected Yellow fever outbreak kills scores in Benue

A suspected yellow fever outbreak may be responsible the scores of people killed in some Benue State communities, which has also been called strange disease by locals.

The disease said to have broken out in the Epeilo community in Otukpa, of Ogbadibo local government area of the state, has killed no fewer than 20 persons, even as the Benue Ministry of Health has been alerted on the outbreak.

Chairman of the local government, Mr Samuel Onu, who raised the alarm, last weekend, during a meeting with newsmen, said he has already constituted a committee to investigate the cause of deaths in the area, adding further that the situation has caused concern to the people and government of Benue.

According to him, state Governor Samuel Ortom has already directed Ministry of Health to commence investigation into the strange disease.

Last week, the Ministry of Health in a statement issued by Mr Andrew Amee, the Permanent Secretary, said the strange disease had claimed 17 lives, confirming that a team was already at Epeilo in Otukpa to identify the nature of the disease.

Benue shares borders with Enugu which earlier sounded the warning on the outbreak of another strange disease, which had already claimed scores of lives in the two communities in the Igbo-Eze North local government area of the state.

However, days later, another emergency was declared as the disease had spread to three more local government areas of the state, namely; Nsukka, Isi-Uzo and Igbo-Etiti councils.

Responding to the latest cases in Enugu, the state’s commissioner for Health, Dr Emmanuel Ikechukwu Obi said the ministry’s Rapid Response Team, LGA Rapid Response Teams, International and National Partners have already visited the affected councils of Nsukka, Isi-Uzo and Igbo-Etiti ‘to investigate the reports and take samples for testing just as was done for the reports at Igboeze North.’

“The new set of samples from these LGAs have been sent to the National Reference Laboratory at the Federal Capital Territory Abuja for a thorough and complete examination to determine conclusively the reasons for these new set of reports and the results are expected back early this week,” he said.

Continuing, the Enugu commissioner informed that the disease was confirmed through verifiable diagnostic tests.

Dr. Obi said the disease is not a new one but one of public health importance internationally and in Nigeria adding that, ‘It is one of the diseases controlled in the Nigerian set of routine and mass immunizable diseases.’

According to him ‘a suspected case is anyone with a sudden onset of fever who develops jaundice (yellowness of the eyes) within 14 days it is verifiable by diagnostic tests.’

According to Health commissioner, the State Ministry of Health has called for an immediate Emergency Operations Centre Meeting this morning at 10am, with representatives from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other implementing partners in the state, to articulate specific next steps to effectively respond to and control this disease in Igboeze North LGA, and prevent its spread in Enugu State.

“We are collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Health and with nearby states to prevent its spread within Nigeria. The General Hospital, Enugu Ezike, and other hospitals in the state are prepared to provide the supportive treatment needed for Yellow Fever.

“Yellow fever is transmitted by the aedes or haemogogus specie of mosquitoes, causes symptoms within 3 – 6 days of infection, which range from a mild febrile illness in some individuals to a more toxic illness that can, unfortunately, lead to death in others. Only 15 percent of infected persons enter this toxic phase.

“This is a time to continue in earnest the hygienic practices that we have become used to due to the COVID -19 pandemic, while now improving our environmental hygiene practices; keep our surroundings clean and free of overgrown bushes, ensuring that we do not allow containers and gutters around us to collect water for long periods which allows mosquitoes to breed. We should protect our homes by screening doors and windows with nets, and ourselves by sleeping under mosquito nets and wearing clothes that limit mosquito bites.

“Most of all, if you recognize the above symptoms in yourself or a loved one, please visit the nearest hospital,” the commissioner said.

A Yellow fever outbreak was also reported earlier this month in Delta where two communities of Ute-Okpu and Idumuesah in Ika North local government suffered deaths of over 20 persons.

Reacting to the Delta cases, the state commissioner for Health, Dr Mordi Ononye, said some tests had been conducted to ascertain the real cause of the mysterious deaths, adding that the results of the tests returned positive for Yellow Fever disease.

According to the commissioner, 22 deaths have so far been recorded in the two communities, and not 30, as previously claimed, stressing that seven other active cases were receiving treatments in hospitals across the state.

He also hinted that the state’s health authorities were awaiting the authentication of the government’s position from the Regional Test Centre in Dakar, Senegal, in the next one month.

A similar outbreak of the Yellow fever disease in Ebonyi, early August, this year claimed the lives of two people, as confirmed by the state government, which had denied the 16 fatalities reported by the media.

So far, Delta, Enugu, and Bauchi states in the country have reported cases of Yellow fever this November alone.

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