Since the first discovery of Lassa fever as a disease entity in 1969 from Borno State, Nigeria, there have been outbreaks of varying magnitude and severity in West Africa countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and parts of Nigeria. The attendant high morbidity and mortality has been a major public health challenge causing much fear and misery in and outside the communities where the disease has been reported.

The Institute of Lassa fever Control located in Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH), Irrua, which is wholly dedicated to the attainment of excellence in the control of Lassa fever, is the first of its kind in Nigeria and indeed the West Africa sub region.

The institute was founded in January 2007 by the Board of Management, following a proposal for its establishment made by the Chief Medical Director through the Hospital Management Committee to the board.

Prior to the establishment of the institute, the Control of Lassa fever was carried out mainly through the activities of the Hospital Lassa fever Awareness campaign Committee. This committee was inaugurated in 2001 following the designation of the hospital by the Federal Ministry of Health as a Centre of excellence for the Control and Management of Lassa fever in Nigeria along with two other tertiary health institutions (University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri and Federal Medical Centre, Owerri). The committee was renamed Lassa fever Control Committee in 2006 to capture and reflect the growing all encompassing nature of its activities. Despite these attempts of the hospital with support of the FMOH to control the disease, yearly epidemics of the disease continue to occur with a recent trend to becoming an- all- year round phenomenon. It was therefore obvious that there were still gaps in the efforts to curtail the disease, necessitating a more radical and pragmatic approach.

The establishment of the institute is a carefully organized aggregate response to comprehensively meet this need. It is an indigenous initiative and a long awaited response to the yearning/ aspiration of untold millions. It is the result of several collective efforts to overhaul and scale up control efforts for a more encompassing and all-embracing program approach. It is borne out of a deep concern over the recurring loss of highly skilled health manpower in the sub-region due to nosocomial disease. It is a bold step taken in high hopes and determination with the sole purpose to halt and reverse the present unacceptably high morbidity and mortality statistics due to Lassa fever, a ‘silent disaster’ in Nigeria, the West Africa sub-region and probably beyond.

The rationale for the institute is therefore based on the long history of uncontained Lassa fever epidemics in Nigeria, the need for a more comprehensive and coordinated control program, the need to build capacity to adequately respond to the epidemics, as well as the dire need for focused research and advocacy.

OBJECTIVES

· The stated objectives of the institute as a centre for Lassa fever Research and Control are as follows:

· To conduct prompt laboratory confirmation on all suspected cases of Lassa fever referred to the diagnostic lab and provide feedback for clinical management of patients.

· To enhance the capacity of clinicians and other health workers in the case management and prevention of Lassa fever

· To provide training for doctors, medical students as well as nursing professionals and auxiliary personnel who will provide service not only within the institute, but also in peripheral health institutions and other health units in the community, in consonance with the operational requirements of the health team under the national primary health care services.

· To facilitate and coordinate Community Awareness Campaign/enlightenment/training on lassa fever.

· To conduct contact tracing and follow up of close contacts

· To carry out active surveillance of lassa fever cases in health facilities and communities.

· To initiate, plan and carry out advocacy visits to relevant health authorities/agencies

· To seek networking collaboration with other institutions/agencies and bodies focusing on the control of lassa fever and other viral haemorrhagic illnesses.

· To facilitate and conduct Operational research on Lassa fever and apply findings to the control of the disease.

· To provide training for undergraduate and postgraduate medical students as well as nursing professionals and Community Medicine Extension Workers (CHEWS) who will provide service not only within the institute, but also in its associated peripheral health institutions and other health units in the community, in consonance with the operational requirements of the health team under the national Primary Health care System.

· To ensure constant supply of IV ribavirin for the treatment of lassa fever.

· To regularly publish current information on the incidence and seroprevalence status of Lassa fever through accurate collection, collation and analysis of all relevant data.

Institute of Lassa Fever, Research and Control

Since the first discovery of Lassa fever as a disease entity in 1969 from Borno State, Nigeria, there have been outbreaks of varying magnitude and severity in West Africa countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and parts of Nigeria. The attendant high morbidity and mortality has been a major public health challenge causing much fear and misery in and outside the communities where the disease has been reported.

Departments

Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital

P.M.B. 08, Irrua, Edo State

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