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The people of Avonkwu, Olokoro in Umuahia South local government area of Abia State were last week thrown into panic as Lassa fever outbreak hit the area.

The Nation reports that although the state government has assured that the situation had been put under control, some of villagers were skeptical about visiting their village.

The paper quoted some of the villagers as saying that they have since the outbreak reduced consumption of commercial garri, except for the one they brought from the farm and prepared by themselves under strict supervision and an enhanced storage facility.

The state Information Commissioner, Mr. John Okiyi-Kalu had in a release said that state Ministry of Health was fully in control of the situation, adding that a rapid response team of health personnel had been deployed to the area in line with their standard response system.

He said only a single case of Lassa fever was confirmed and full contact tracing ongoing with more than 95% success rate.

Okiyi-Kalu while calling for vigilance among the people said that there was no need for panic.

The release read in part: “Following the confirmation of Lassa fever outbreak in a community in Umuahia South LGA of the state, we wish to issue the following advisory to citizens regarding the disease, prevention, and control.

“Please note that ‘outbreak’ does not suggest generalised spreading of the disease but rather a medical parlance applied to even single confirmation of a highly infectious disease such as Lassa fever, Ebola etc.

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“In the present case, only a single case was confirmed and full contact tracing is ongoing with more than 95% success rate. All those who were identified to have had contact with the index patient are currently being monitored and those who are eligible are on prophylactic treatment.

“There is, therefore, no need for panic. It is important to note that Lassa fever can be treated and drugs are available in medical facilities in Abia State. Our people are encouraged to visit the nearest medical facilities if they have fever or other symptoms listed below.

“More importantly, efforts should be made to prevent infection by keeping the environment clean, prevent rats from coming near food items and take measures to ensure that rats fleeing from bush burning do not enter homes or anywhere food items are kept.

“We assure you that the government is on top of this situation and those who have further enquiries can visit any medical facility in the state, including our primary healthcare centres spread all over the state or contact our tele-health team. Abia State Ministry of Health is fully in control of the situation with a rapid response team fully deployed in line with their standard response system. We see no cause for alarm but wish to plead for vigilance.”

Addressing newsmen on the issue, the state Commissioner for Health, Joe Osuji, who was represented by his Permanent Secretary, Mr. Emole Egbulefu, disclosed that the victim was a 28-year-old man from Avonkwu, Olokoro in Umuahia South LGA and was confirmed to have died of Lassa fever at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC Umuahia.

Egbelefu, who stated that the patient died the same day he was brought to the hospital, allayed fears of the spread of the disease which he said is neither airborne nor waterborne “but only through personal or direct contact with an infected person”.