The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has disclosed that the federal government “will soon establish a special laboratory to boost the testing capacity of Lassa fever in the country.”
Ehanire made the disclosure Friday while fielding questions from journalists in Abuja on capacity of the existing laboratories to test the volume of samples from across the country.
The country has five special laboratories strategically located to test Lassa fever in Ondo, Edo, Abuja, Lagos and Ebonyi states.
The laboratories are located at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC’s) National Reference Laboratory in Abuja; Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo state; Federal Medical Centre Owo in Ondo state; Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, and Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
The minister said the new laboratory would make it the 6th special laboratory so that the fever could be treated in most tertiary hospitals across the country.
He said, “We have five laboratories where Lassa fever can be diagnosed and we are in the process of getting the sixth one, courtesy of West African Health Organisation (WAHO).
“We want to place the new laboratory strategically so that the distance of getting samples to the laboratory is minimal just as we have other laboratories strategically located across the country.
“We are not going to use sentiment in establishing the new one; we will leave it for NCDC to decide since they are going to be the one to be doing the testing.”
Ehanire said the federal government was working toward supporting the National Laboratory Network to facilitate easy diagnosis of any viral disease in the country.
He said the Federal Ministry of Health was also working with stakeholders to upgrade a laboratory in Kano to add to the number of existing laboratories.
The minister, however, said the Irrua Research Specialist Hospital was working on developing a vaccine to address the Lassa fever problem, adding that a team was working on the first stage of the process and that “the team has made a lot of progress.”
According to him, a lot of work is being done on Lassa fever and the country has reduced fatality rate from 30 per cent to 14 per cent.
Also speaking, the director-general of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, advised journalists against misinformation, saying the Centre had been proactive in releasing timely information to the public through social and conventional media.
Meanwhile, 472 cases and 70 deaths of Lassa fever were recorded in the country as at February 11, 2020, since the outbreak of the disease.