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The Chairman of Ibaji Local Government Area in Kogi State, Mr. William Iko’ojo, on Thursday appealed to Federal and State Governments for urgent response to the Lassa fever outbreak.
Iko’ojo made the call in an interview with reporters in Onyedega, the seat of Ibaji local government area in Kogi state.
“We are overwhelmed by the Lassa fever outbreak in Ibaji.
“The disease killed more than 20 people, most of whom were herders living in hamlets in the area.
“Already three people are admitted to Irrua University Specialty Hospital, Idumabo Irrua, Edo State, where the disease has been officially confirmed as Lassa fever.
“The unfortunate thing is that when the disease broke out, the villagers were unaware of the cause and the deaths of their loved ones and crowded around each other to help each other,” he said.
He explained that the disease had spread so quickly and had killed many villagers in some communities.
“Another challenge we have now is that our only primary health care (PHC) center is without facilities and without a doctor who could help us control the outbreak.
“Of course, Irrua University Specialty Hospital, Idumabo Irrua, Edo State is the nearest hospital that handles Lassa fever disease,” he lamented.
The local government boss said he had reported the outbreak to the state government, which promised to send medical personnel and facilities to help stop the spread of the disease.
Reporters learned that Aya and nearby local government communities in early March began witnessing mysterious deaths of rice farmers and other members, but could not determine the cause of death.
Former Ibaji Local Government Area Chairman and former Kogi State Assembly Member Mr. David Inah-Ogwu said the outbreak was real.
Inah-Ogwu, who described the situation as “very unfortunate” and “alarming”, said the outbreak started with around four people.
He said they fell ill and died mysteriously with more and more people showing similar symptoms over the past three weeks who had been taken to hospital in Irrua.
“It is easier for people in affected communities to ‘just cross the river and get to Uromi and from there to Irrua for their treatment.
“Of all 22 people who went there (hospital), nine were confirmed to have Lassa fever; two were treated and discharged while seven are still there receiving treatment.
“So far we can say the number of victims is around 20. Some have died with symptoms but no one can say precisely what killed them as they have not been tested.
“However, we are lucky and happy that the rainy season is here because cases of Lassa fever are rampant in the dry season and are very common in rice producing areas.

Virginia S. Braud