WITH 176 recorded cases across 20 states of the federation, and 108 deaths from the current Lassa fever outbreak, stakeholders say it was time government at all levels took the campaign to create awareness about the deadly disease to schools, especially boarding schools and tertiary institutions.
According to them, with the large concentration of people in these locations, starving them of sufficient knowledge of how to spot the ailment timeously, and the immediate steps to take after that, amounts to putting the lives of millions of people at risk.
While giving the fatality rate of 61.4 percent in the current outbreak, Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole said, “It is important that I inform the nation that this current outbreak is under control as evidenced by decline in new suspected cases, new laboratory confirmed cases and newly reported cases by week.
“Despite this achievement, however, you will agree with me that it will be dangerous if we go complacent at this stage, as we could record another flare-up and a second wave deep in the dry season. I have instructed the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to work closely with the Lassa Fever Eradication Committee and other partners to develop a Lassa fever control strategy that will withstand the test of time.”
The stakeholders, who spoke to The Guardian in separate interviews, observed that unlike the Ebola viral disease outbreak, which sufficient awareness creation exercise was carried out in schools, not much has been done in that regards on Lassa fever, which they still see as a public health emergency.
Well, just like the larger society, boarding schools are not immune to the Lassa fever plague – it is important for adequate measures to be put in place to safeguard the well being of the students. Operators of boarding schools should be more vigilant and ensure that all food stocks are properly stored away from rodents.
For Director, Greensprings School, Lagos, Mrs. Lai Koiki, in times like this, “Apart from the usual health and safety practices, apartments and dormitories should be fumigated regularly to rid them of all rodents. Meals must be hygienically prepared. Even food stocks must be scrutinized and thetheir sources verified. All sources of water must be adequately treated because prevention is always better.”
Specifically, she said it was imperative for nurses in the school clinics to be “alive to their responsibilities by being observant; taking serious precautionary measures and reporting any suspected symptoms of Lassa fever promptly. Every member of the school community must be taught the need for hygiene.”
Conscious of the catastrophic effect an outbreak could have in schools, Principal, Federal Government Girls College, (FGGC) Sagamu, Ogun State, Mrs. Agnes Owolabi, said her school had taken the necessary precautionary steps to safeguard lives.
For Principal, Federal Science and Technical College (FSTC), Yaba, Lagos, Rev Chris Ugorji, “The college community is already aware of the situation, and we have fumigated the hostels and the entire compound, including the dinning and the store rooms where the foods are kept. Both staff and students have been sufficiently sensitized on the outbreak.”
In his submission, Board Chairman, Trinity Foundation School, Deacon Robert Tade, said, “Educationists must first and foremost consider cleanliness, welfare of the children and environment (whether boarding or day school) as very important. That is what we do here at Trinity School. We always maintain clean environment and fumigate at intervals against household insects and rodents. So, there is no risk of contamination of the disease here.
Chairperson of Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Dansol High School, Lagos, Mrs. Olubukola Ajoku, who said that in most schools awareness creation about Lassa fever has been quite low, advised that schools should adopt the same measures adopted during the Ebola outbreak.