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Gastroenteritis in Lagos: Towards averting national outbreak

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IN LINE with anaemic selective amnesia that traditionally tenors public opinion in Nigeria, the recent epidemic of gastroenteritis that broke out in Lagos State may have been rolled back in public memory. But it should not be so.

   WHILE reports of the disease of monkey pox in some states in Nigeria stealthily made the rounds, an outbreak of gastroenteritis is rocking Lagos State. Its casualty toll is rising with over 600 cases reported with majorly  five local government areas, comprising Lagos Island, Surulere, Mushin and Ajeromi  accounting for more than three-quartre of the hospital patients.

  OVER 100 cases were recorded in Lagos Island General Hospital alone with some cases in Isolo General Hospital.

  ALTHOUGH Lagos State Commissioner for Heath, Akin Abayomi, put the number of deaths at 11, unofficial reports indicate that actual number of deaths recorded could be much more than double the official figure.

  PREDICTABLY, the development has caused panic among Lagos State residents. With  more reports of death comprising both children and adults, sense of danger now rise among Lagosians and even visitors coming to town for business or tourism. But knowledge of the causes and nature of the disease would be of more help than succumbing to tension.

  EXPLAINING the development, the Lagos State health authority informed that it can be contracted by eating or drinking contaminated foods such as not-well cooked seafood. According to the experts, the infection is caused by viral micro-organisms similar to those that serve as causative agents and vectors of typhoid fever, cholera and certain viruses.

There are reports of people who visited patients in hospital and returned to develop the disease which shows how easily contagious it is. So medics emphasise basic hygiene, hand washing and keenness on source of water for drinking and cooking.

  SYMPTOMATICALLY, patients with gastroenteritis usually go through fits or rounds of acute watery diarrhea and profuse vomiting. Also,  people who come in contact with those micro-organisms that spread the disease show those signs and symptoms within 12 hours to one week after ingesting contaminated food or water.

  THE disease has no discriminatory lines as it affects both children and adults and can kill its victims within hours if not treated promptly.

  APART from physical factors, some environmental or climatic issues are responsible for the disease’s outbreak. Prof. Abayomi, partly blamed the epidemic on persistent rain that caused flooding in some local councils ocean-shore located in Lagos State.

  THE state’s health authorities deserve commendation for not turning blind eye when news of earlier infections in pockets of places broke in the media.  Some authorities would have dismissed it as  fake news.

  PROMPT action and sincerity on the matter are areas where the state needs commendation. For instance, apart from activating an emergency operation centre (EOC) to be manned by Rapid Response Teams led by medical officers of health as command and control desks where logistics and resources were pooled and channeled directly in response to the outbreaks.

Health workers were mobilised  with good hand washing facilities and techniques to ensure safety precautions when dealing with patients. People were also advised to report any further instance of severe or persistent vomiting and diarrhea to medical or health officers in their LGAs or Directorate of Disease Control through some dedicated toll-free telephone lines.

Those efforts notwithstanding, it is not yet Uhuru as the epidemic still persists. This makes it clear that a lot more still need to be done, not only to stall present cases, but to forestall future occurrences. 

  GIVEN the strategic position of Lagos State as a melting pot of people from all over Nigeria, people pour in and out of the  economic capital of Nigeria on daily basis. And it is common knowledge that majority of sourjouners and business seeking visitors of Lagos are from  the Southeast of Nigeria.

  THEREFORE, a situation where visitors, upon returning from a business trip, come down with the ailment indicates more health hazards could threaten national stability, by the  time carriers start ‘sharing’ the disease among relations and neighbours.

  THIS is why we call on Lagos State Ministry of Health to expedite action in their earlier promise to publish results of laboratory tests once the source pathogen of the epidemic is identified. People should also avoid patronising unhygienic food vendors, and maintain a high standard of personal hygiene by regularly washing their hands with soap and water, as well as using sanitisers.

The warning goes mainly to children because they are a vulnerable group to whom the state government should devote more enlightenment in their awareness campaigns.

  A STITCH in time, saves nine because this outbreak of gastroenteritis in Lagos may spread to other parts of Nigeria in a flash.

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