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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Lassa fever: Watch what you eat

In this era of erratic power supply, getting home at night after a hard day’s work and retiring to darkness could be depressing. For most women, the culture of buying gifts or appetizers for the kids is a time of joy and celebration as they would gladly eat whatever you present to them.

A Lassa fever patient

But if you happen to get home and there was no power supply, endeavour to make adequate lighting available as this could save your children’s life.

In my neighbourhood I have a regular customer where I purchase most of my household needs such as toiletries, provisions and even sachet drinking water.

On this particular day, on my way to work because I knew I would work till late, I decided to buy a loaf of sliced bread which I intend to share with a colleague in the office.

I took the bread without much inspection believing it was in a good condition as I usually noticed when I buy. On getting to the office and I was about to share the bread with my colleagues, I was shocked to discover the bad state of the bread. Upon thorough inspection, I observed the bread was already eaten by rat as bite marks by the rat were visible.

The first six slices of the bread was eaten off by the rat attack. I gently repacked the bread and returned immediately to the shop, where I expressed my displeasure on why the shop owner would sell a loaf of bread in such a bad state.

He seemed shocked that the bread had been attacked by rats and replied that the bread was supplied to him like that. I took photo shots of the bread and decided to contact the company producing the bread.

I got the phone numbers written on the wrapper of the bread and made effort to call but none of the two numbers were available as I tried several times.

Many persons have been victims of contaminated packaged food or drinks with some not reported to prevent others from falling into the same situation.

It is necessary for the National Food and Drug Administration Commission (NAFDAC) with other relevant agencies to monitor and inspect the state of food and drugs being sold.

Since the beginning of the year there has been an outbreak of Lassa fever with numerous persons dying from the infection.

Lassa fever is an acute viral infection that was first discovered in Lassa Village of Borno State, North-East Nigeria, in 1969.

It is caused by infected rodents that transmit the virus either through faeces or urine droppings, or biting on exposed foods.

It has also been found to be predominant in the West African region in countries like Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Guinea and some parts of East Africa.

According to reports, careless and unhygienic method of preserving food has increased the level of vulnerability in densely-populated residential areas.

The old method of preserving food crops in rural communities in some parts of the country has increased its spread.

Along the highways in rural areas it is noticed that many households preserve their food crops by drying them in the sun on the expressway. Most times these food items are left for days to dry properly before they are removed.

An indigene of Edo State, Mr. Lucky Osaro, stressed that Lassa fever is more endemic in the state because of the method of preserving food produce along major roads.

He stated that, with the dry season and bush burning in preparedness for the new planting season, the rats are chased from their homes and then take refuge in people’s homes.

He advised parents to be on the lookout for avenues that would allow for free entrance of the rats. Furthermore, he urged mothers to wash and watch what they feed their families with as the rats could have infected the food either by eating or urinating on them.

The worst hit states are Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue and Ondo, with increased advocacy/awareness campaign in Lagos and some other states.

Those rats lurking around your neighbourhood could be carrying the Lassa fever virus. So, watch before you put that food or drink in your mouth.


By Tina Armstrong-Ogbonna

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