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Govt to intensify hand washing culture in public places to halt Lassa fever

The Federal Ministry of Water Resources has begun activities to intensify efforts to promote hand washing culture to halt spread of Lassa fever outbreak in the country.

Suleiman Adamu
Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu

Mr Emmanuel Awe, the Director, Water Quality Control and Sanitation in the ministry made the disclosure in Abuja on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.

Awe said that with the recent outbreak of Lassa fever in parts of the country, the ministry could not fold its hands to watch.

According to him, advocacy has started among its partners to see how promotion of hand washing culture with soap, water or ash in public places will be achieved.

He said that promoting hand washing at critical times was key to fighting the spread of diseases, especially with the recent threat in the country.

“We are going to start awareness campaign on promoting hand washing with soap or ash and water, we all know our hands have a way of passing germs into our body.

“The ministry will see how the gains recorded during the last Ebola outbreak will be harnessed, how we emphasised hand washing culture at all times.”

Also reacting to the Lassa fever outbreak, Mr Benson Attah, the National Coordinator, Society for Water and Sanitation said that as the dry season starts, there was the possibility of having rampant cases of diseases such as Lassa fever.

“As the weather is changing, so are those things that affect our health, we also see the need for continuous sensitisation because it is not just Lassa fever after some time now, we will hear of cholera outbreak,  we now hearing about coronavirus in Asia.

“We are hoping that it will not get into the country, hence the need to keep up with the hand washing culture, there are also some kinds of behavioural practices that people, especially at the grassroots should do.

“Citizens should focus on behavioural change, remember that time when we had Ebola outbreak, everyone was ready to wash their hands and do all sorts just to stay clean, immediately we heard that Ebola was defeated, we all went back to our normal lives.’’

Attah said that the role of behaviour change could not be over emphasised as it relates to food and water, adding that with adequate knowledge and attitudinal changes, the disease spread would be curtailed.

He said the organisation had begun processes to partner with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to promote awareness creation and sensitisation in parts of the country, adding that this would go a long way to promote hygiene and halt spread of diseases.

Attah said that the organisation was part of the Emergency Operation Centre which met regularly to advocate for interventions in emergency situations, saying more stakeholders’ partnerships was needed, especially in rural areas.

“We have started the discussion in the area of providing health education and awareness creation in communities, this has helped us to see that being proactive will help us to minimise the impact of such outbreak, reduce cost and unnecessary deaths.”

The coordinator said key organisation in charge of health education should do more on health promotion, and not wait for an outbreak of diseases before doing last minute activities.

A Public Health Expert, Dr Tuyi Mebawondu, stressed the need for health education at all times, saying personal hygiene had a big role to play in disease outbreak and control.

He said that there was need for safe disposal of waste and frequent fumigation of environment, saying rats should be killed and not spared whenever they were seen.

“Don’t self-medicate, if you have illness, see a doctor immediately, keep your house clean, personal hygiene is important always.

“If you see any rat around, make sure they are killed, cover your foods, make sure your house is clean, and waste disposed properly.”

As at Jan. 24, no fewer than 195 confirmed cases of Lassa fever and 29 deaths have been reported in 11 states.

Lassa fever is largely transmitted through contact with items or surfaces contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats.

It can also be transmitted from person-to-person through contact with blood, urine, faeces and other body fluids of an infected person.

To minimise the risk of infection, members of the public are advised to ensure their environment is always kept clean to avoid contact with rodents.

Early symptoms are fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, sore throat etc. It is in very severe cases that the patient bleeds from body openings.

By Tosin Kolade

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