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Full Text of Press Statement by NANNM President on Lassa Fever Outbreak - Press Releases/Resolutions - Nurses Arena Forum

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Full Text of Press Statement by NANNM President on Lassa Fever Outbreak by Idowu Olabode : February 06, 2016, 09:43:29 AM
Here is the full text of the press statement by the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) National President Alhaji Abdurafiu Alani Adeniji exclusively obtained by Feel free to share widely.


The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) has closely followed with keen interest and great sense of responsibility the various intervention programs of the Federal republic of Nigeria in combating the menace of Lassa fever. There are ongoing intervention programs, but these trends so far left much to be desired. It is however to be reiterated the up ten times that we can’t afford unnecessary health sector professional politics and maladies that we have dwelled into without result over the years.

 The origin of Lassa fever is dated back to 1969 when the outbreak first occurred in a town in Borno State called Lassa which the virus is named after. Therefore, as a professional Association and arising from our corporate responsibility to the public, the government and health care providers; especially the nurses who are the most vulnerable as far as the care, cure and rendering of services for the victims of Lassa fever is concerned; it is pertinent to bring to the fore adequate information and awareness to address the problem of Lassa fever as well as providing advice on measures to take so as to minimize casualties and fatalities as a result of this outbreak.

 First, it is important for all Nigerians to realize that this is not a time to panic or fret. Rather, we should seek and act based on relevant information, adequate knowledge to prevent being infected and provide effective care that will guarantee speedy recovery for those who have already been infected.

 Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness whose causative agent is a deadly virus, a member of Arenaviridae virus family which is transmitted through contact with food or household items contaminated with the urine or feces of multi-mammate rats (Mastomys natalensis). It can also be transmitted from one human to another through direct contact with blood, urine, feces and other body secretions of infected persons. Cases of sexual transmission of the Lassa virus have also been reported. Health practitioners and professionals should note that transmission from person-to-person can occur in communities and health care settings. Thereby it is  capable of constituting zoonotic and nosocomial infections in our hospitals, health centres and clinics.

 Lassa fever has an incubation period of 6 – 21 days and a gradual onset. The victims starts manifesting with malaise, general weakness and fevers which progresses to headache, muscle cramps, sore throat, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, cough, diarrhea and abdominal pain in few days. Other severe signs and symptoms occur as the illness progresses and may result to death in fatal cases. It is imperative at this point to advise Nigerians to protect ourselves, our foods and houses from rats and maintain proper hygiene to prevent contact with the virus.

Early identification of symptoms and early supportive care will greatly improve prognosis hence the public should ensure that infected persons are presented on time to a health facility. The greatest responsibilities lie on the nurses. Certainly we're up to the task and will not waiver nor relent.  Nigerians should be reassured that there is no need to panic as the overall fatality rate is 1% while observed case fatality rate among patients hospitalized with severe cases of the illness is 15% (According to the World Health Organization  Lassa Fever – Nigeria).

 Between August 2015 and 23 January 2016, 159 suspected cases of Lassa fever, including 82 deaths, were reported across 19 states. It is obvious that this statistics has over shot the WHO predictions, certainly it’s a course for great concern. Investigations are ongoing and a retrospective review of cases is currently being performed; therefore, these figures are subject to change. The 4 most affected states are Bauchi, Edo, Oyo and Taraba, which account for 54% of the confirmed cases (n=54) and 52% of the reported deaths (n=34). The remaining 15 States have reported less than 5 confirmed cases.

 Samples of 54 cases, including 34 deaths, were confirmed for Lassa fever by reverse transcription polymerase-chain reaction (RT-PCR). All samples tested negative for Ebola virus disease, Dengue and yellow fever. To date, 4 health care workers were laboratory-confirmed for Lassa fever; of these 4 cases, 2 passed away. It is important to note that these cases are not totally considered as cases of hospital-acquired infection as no confirmed or suspected cases were reported in the 4 different health facilities where these health care workers were employed.

 As of 21 January, 2,504 contacts had been listed and 1,942 are currently being monitored. A total of 562 contacts have completed follow up. So far, none of the contacts have tested positive for Lassa fever. (The National IHR Focal Point of Nigeria).

 We want to use this medium to call on our entire professional colleagues to be more careful and take universal safety precautions while attending to clients. We strongly advise nurses and other health professionals to remember and employ the use of universal precaution techniques while attending to all clients.

 As a professional Association, we advocate for availability of materials, and appropriate technologies as part of minimum requirements for work. While we are very much willing to care for the sick, we should not allow ourselves to be used as unnecessary sacrificial lambs for the failures of the mangers of our health care system neither should we be turned to vectors to transfer the virus from person to another.
 We use this medium to commiserate with the families of those health workers who have lost their lives to the scourge in the course of caring for patients. We will also continue to remember those who have fallen sick as a result of contacting Lassa fever in the course of their duties especially the student nurse from the Federal Medical Centre, Ido-Ekiti in Ekiti State. We wish them quick recovery and pray that God grant them good health.

We appeal to Nigerian nurses to remain calm and remain dedicated to the discharge of their duties but also be very vigilant. As nurses, we will remain committed to duties and continue to put in our best as we play our part in the efforts to fight this outbreak as we did during the Ebola outbreak and as always in public health emergencies in the spirit of Nightingale the mother of modern nursing.

There is no doubt that there must be a collective efforts and responsibility of all stakeholders in health to fight this dreaded virus through health research, shared scientific efforts and the political will as well as dedicated team work, collective responsibilities and all-inclusiveness.

Let us use this opportunity to appreciate the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Honourable Minister of Health. However, we want to observe that the fight against Lassa fever should not be allowed to witness lopsidedness in the policy formulation and execution of the intervention programs. It has been observed that while we have eminently qualified nurses among whom are professors in relevant fields to disease control and epidemiology, none has been considered fit as a member of the Inter-Ministerial committee on the fight against Lassa fever. We therefore call on the Minister of Health to consider the inclusion of those qualified personalities to enhance the work of the committee. This call should be devoid of the usual approach of the Federal Ministry of Health to categorize such legitimate calls as mere position/attention seeking or calls borne out of rivalry. We also urge the Federal government to intensify efforts at improving our public health system and ensure that all frontline professionals are involved in the efforts to contain this threat to our health care system. The importance of nurses and midwives working at primary health care levels has to be utilized. The present situations where adequately trained and certificated public / community health nurses are being relegated to the background in primary health care services will bring nothing but doom. There are places today that non-professionals like holders of B.Ed (Health Education) are imposed over nurses as PHC coordinator all in the name of teachers of health education is uncalled for.

Equally,  some states that are legislating outside their jurisdiction super-imposing community health extension workers on nurses is another dangerous trend. However NANNM is up to the task. We urge the nurses and midwives in this area to remain calm, dedicated and committed. The government at all levels should do their part to provide adequate equipment, infrastructures, technologies, protective wears and policies to take care of health professionals who fall victim in the course of performing their duties. The government should be able to provide adequate infectious disease hospital with all forms of isolation and barrier nursing techniques. There is also need to take urgent steps to adequately equip our health care facilities and strengthen the health care system especially at the preventive level as this will ensure that we are always prepared for such health emergencies. It is high time we moved from being reactionary to public health challenges.

 Zika virus disease is at our back yard, haven gotten to Cape Verde here in Africa. This in addition to the fact that Nigerians are known to be immigrant to and fro across the Globe. We are a nation endowed with tropical vegetation with abundance of mosquitoes, Aedis family in particular which aid the spread of the viral fever, while cases of sexual and blood transfusion has been established.

 The government and the Nigerian populace should be rest assured that nurses are solidly committed to playing their own roles in promoting the health of the citizenry and preventing illnesses.

 The federal, state, and local government should exercises control over publicly and privately owned health facilities and monitored them well to ensure efficient, quality and safe health care system. Nothing could be substantively achieved without ensuring the public- private partnership and collaboration in health sector. I therefore call on the Nursing and Midwifery Committee in the states to rises up to their challenges by playing their roles in curbing quackery at all levels of our operations.

Finally, we want to use this medium to appeal to the government of the day to quickly correct the inequalities in the health sector and accede to the various lawful requests and agitations of National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives. Among others are the immediate commencements of internship for our BNSc graduate, Unified Scheme of services, correction of the inadequacies in nursing education, and release and implementation of relativity allowances to all cadres of nurses and midwives. The system can only be made effective when there is peace; and peace can only be attained in the presence of social justice.

The recent outbreak of Lassa fever should be seen as a test for our country’s health system and we are confident that we will surmount it like we did the Ebola outbreak. However, for this to happen all hands must be on deck and all Nigerians must play their roles.

Nurse Abdrafiu Alani Adeniji,   
National President,
National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM).

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