A Professor of Microbiology and former Vice-Chancellor of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor, has expressed displeasure with the country’s approach to fighting the deadly Lassa fever, describing the method adopted as “annual recurrent budget of death for the poor people in Nigeria.”
Delivering the Distinguished Lecture of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), with the title, “Combating Lassa Fever: a National Health Challenge”, Prof.Agbonlahor said it was sad that for the past 47 years, Nigeria had hitherto made noise in the name of creating awareness during outbreaks but goes to sleep at the end of each episode and only wakes up when the next outbreak occurs.
Quoting from a statement he credited to Prof. Oyewole Tomori, he said: “We are not aware of any report on cases of Lassa fever and its endemicity in other continents of the world. This perhaps explains why governments in the developed countries show little or no interest or financial commitment to Lassa fever eradication. They look at the disease as a regional problem, which is mainly endemic in West Africa.
“Despite the thousands of deaths from the fever, Nigeria is still unprepared to contain the disease, waking up every year an outbreak is reported, running like a decapitated chicken in any direction and forgetting about the disease till another year of another outbreak.”
He therefore, advocated accurate epidemiological data on the distribution, rodent typing and rodents’ Lassa viral carriage according to geopolitical zones and states in Nigeria in order for the disease to be effectively tackled.
Professor Agbonlahor lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for inaugurating the national committee on the control and prevention of haemorrhagic fever and other infectious disease outbreaks in Nigeria, which is chaired by Prof. Oyewole Tomori.
“This is a step in the right direction as the government now appears serious and willing to listen and provide the necessary logistic support aimed at controlling the scourge of Lassa fever in Nigeria,” he said.
In his opening remarks, the Vice Chancellor of the UNIBEN, Prof. Faraday Orumwense, said the institution has taken the challenge to join the fight against Lassa fever.
He disclosed that the authorities of the institution had set up a committee to sensitize the university community on ways to prevent the disease and to collaborate with the government and the NGOs on ways to eradicate it.