Lagos and Nigeria Battle Severe Cholera Outbreak: 30+ Deaths, 1,491 Cases

By Joke Kujenya

A STERN WARNING has been issued to the public following a recent cholera outbreak affecting multiple states across Nigeria by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).

In a press briefing held in Abuja on Friday, June 14, 2024, NBMA Director General Dr. Agnes Asagbra highlighted the urgent need for caution as the country grapples with 30 deaths and 1,141 suspected cases of cholera.

“As we approach the festive period of the Salah celebrations, it is crucial that we prioritize the health and safety of our communities,” stated Dr. Asagbra.

The highly infectious disease, caused by ingesting contaminated food or water, has been reported in Bayelsa, Zamfara, Abia, Cross River, Bauchi, Delta, Katsina, Imo, Nasarawa, and Lagos States.

Similarly, following the initial alert from the Lagos State Ministry of Health regarding the cholera outbreak, the Lagos State Government has mobilized its Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) at Mainland Hospital, Yaba, Lagos.

The PHEOC was established to tackle the surge in severe gastroenteritis cases across multiple Local Government Areas (LGAs).

During a recent briefing, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, detailed the measures taken to control the outbreak. He reported 350 suspected cholera cases across 29 wards in various LGAs, with 17 confirmed cases and 15 fatalities.

“Laboratory tests have identified Cholera sub-type O-1, which is linked to more severe disease,” Professor Abayomi explained. “While some LGAs are seeing a decrease in cases due to our interventions, new cases are emerging in previously unaffected areas, highlighting the need for strict adherence to hygiene practices.”

Dr. Asagbra emphasized that NBMA, in collaboration with health authorities, is actively monitoring the outbreak and implementing measures to contain its spread. She underscored the importance of public cooperation in adhering to hygiene practices to prevent further infections.

“Boiling drinking water, using certified purification methods, and washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially before meals or food preparation, are essential steps in curbing this outbreak,” advised Dr. Asagbra.

She further advised the public to cook food thoroughly and consume it while hot, avoid raw foods unless they can be peeled or washed with safe water, and maintain a clean environment to prevent contamination.

“NBMA urges all Nigerians to be vigilant and adhere to these hygiene practices to protect themselves and their loved ones from cholera,” she reiterated.

The Director General also called on citizens to report any suspected cases of cholera to the nearest hospital promptly, ensuring timely medical intervention.

The Commissioner noted that the Directorate of Environmental Health and the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency are actively collecting and testing water, food, and beverage samples in the affected LGAs. Facility inspections are also ongoing to ensure compliance with health standards.

To control the outbreak, the state has distributed Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) and prepositioned cholera kits in health facilities. Public health education campaigns are underway to raise awareness about preventive measures.

A high-level meeting between the Lagos State Ministry of Health, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) has taken place to optimize the intervention strategies.

Prof. Abayomi urged residents to support the government’s efforts by maintaining personal and environmental hygiene, cooperating with health authorities, and participating in community-wide sanitation activities.

“As the Eid-al-Adha celebration approaches, it is essential to drink safe water, cook food thoroughly, and practice regular hand washing and sanitizing,” advised Prof. Abayomi. “Report symptoms like watery diarrhea or vomiting immediately to prevent further spread. Treatment for suspected cholera is free at all government facilities.”

The Commissioner praised Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for his leadership and acknowledged the technical support from national and international organizations, including the NCDC, WHO, and UNICEF.

“The Lagos State Government, with the support of our partners, is intensifying efforts to control the outbreak. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide regular updates. Residents are advised to stay informed and follow public health advisories for their safety and well-being,” stated Prof. Abayomi, according to a release by Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, Director of Public Affairs, on June 15, 2024.

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