Health workers at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, took to their heels when a patient who was suspected to have been down with Lassa fever was brought to the Medical Emergency Unit of the hospital on Wednesday.
According to an attendant at the unit, the middle aged security officer was rushed to the hospital by his colleagues on Wednesday morning after he began bleeding through the nose.
It was gathered that one of the nurses at the unit with the doctor on duty eventually came to the patient’s aid and later directed that a series of tests be conducted on him before he was admitted into the ward.
A medic at the unit said that they were taking precautions to ensure that they were wearing protective garment before attending to sick patients to prevent any cross-infection should it be Lassa fever.
The doctor and a senior nurse at the unit also advised the attendants not to panic when patients with symptoms of fever were brought to the hospital.
She said, “These bleeding could have been as a result of tuberculosis as he complained that he had been coughing a lot lately.”
However, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, in a telephone conversation with one of our correspondents on Wednesday, said that any health worker or doctor found to have rejected sick patients over unfound claims would be sanctioned.
Adewole said that such a reaction from health workers who should know better might frustrate ongoing efforts to detect and treat suspected cases of Lassa fever.
He insisted that sick patients or those with symptoms of Lassa fever should be taken to LASUTH, as doctors and nurses at the tertiary institution had been trained on how to quickly attend to such infectious diseases.
Adewole said,“ It is an unprofessional behaviour and if we investigate this, we would sanction such health workers. If there is a suspected case of fever, please go to LASUTH, it is a tertiary hospital and they have adequate health professionals to handle many cases. No one should turn a patient away on the basis of a fever.”
The minister said that a man died of Lassa fever at the National Hospital, Abuja on Wednesday.
Adewole said that the patient who came from Plateau State died shortly after he was admitted to the hospital.
He said, “The man came in from Plateau State because he was ill. The healthcare team at the private hospital failed to suspect Lassa fever.”
The minister, however, had directed that all those who had contact with the deceased should be traced.
Adewole noted that no case of Lassa fever had been confirmed in Sokoto and Gombe states; hence the reason the Federal Government would be delisting them from the list of affected states while it would add Ondo State.
He said,“We are removing Gombe and Sokoto states because none of the cases were confirmed but we are adding Ondo State. So, we still have 10 states that have been affected.”
Adewole, who had visited Minna, the Niger State capital, one of the affected states earlier in the day, said that the outbreak had been brought under control.
The minister, who also visited one of the affected communities during the Lassa fever surveillance and nationwide fact-finding visit, told the state Governor, Abubakar Bello, that despite the high rate of fatality in the last few months, efforts by all stakeholders in the country had brought the scourge under control.
“A nationwide alert system is on to track the disease. Except for the case in Plateau, no person-to-person or hospital-acquired infection has been recorded. So far, things are under control but the state and local governments should put an alert system in place to enable us to track new cases whenever they happen,” Adewole noted.
He added that the Federal Ministry of Health must be notified of any strange death.
The minister blamed the current Lassa fever outbreak on the failure of notification system in the country. He cited the case of Niger State where it took months after the outbreak before his ministry was notified.
The Niger State governor, who was represented by his deputy, Alhaji Ahmed Ketso, called for the inclusion of traditional healers in disease control programmes, saying they were the first healthcare givers that rural dwellers consult.
Meanwhile, a male patient who was receiving treatment for Lassa fever at the isolation ward of the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, in Esan West Local Government Area of Edo State, was said to be in a critical condition on Wednesday.
A medical personnel at the hospital expressed fears that he had a low chance of survival, having reported late for treatment.