Africa CDC Advocates for Automated Disease Reporting as Nigeria Grapples with Lassa Fever
Dr Ahmed Ouma, Africa CDC’s acting director

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) recommends that countries on the continent move rapidly to automated disease reporting systems across the continent to cope with disease outbreaks, as Nigeria grapples with Lassa fever and Malawi and Mozambique struggle with cholera.

“There has been an expected slowdown [in COVID-19 reporting] because of the nature of work at the country level with so many competing priorities for the data managers,” said Dr Ahmed Ouma, Africa CDC’s acting director. 

During the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries were able to provide real-time COVID-19 updates regarding the case and fatality counts, but this is no longer the case, Ouma told the Africa CDC press briefing on Thursday.

“With the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic gone, every other responsibility steps in. All the other small outbreaks that were not being given a keen attention now need attention, the routine health services meet attention. The regular work of that particular individual in the data center still is required,” he said.

In Nigeria, during the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) gave nightly updates on case counts, tests and deaths. But the most recent data for the disease in the country was for 31 March as the country tracks several other diseases.  In 2023, there have been 823 confirmed cases of Lass fever and 144 deaths, for example.

“When you reach a chronic phase in that disease outbreak, that pressure is less. What we are asking and working with these public health institutions across the continent to do is to have a regular way of getting the information and then releasing the information,” Ouma added.

Nigeria’s Lassa fever outbreak

In Nigeria, 24 states and 98 local government areas have confirmed at least one case of Lassa fever this year according to the NCDC. 

Humans usually become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats, which they can then spread to other people via bodily secretions.

In its latest Lassa fever Situation Report, the center revealed that the country has confirmed 142 more cases of Lassa fever in 2023 than within the same period in 2022 when 681 cases were reported. The number of confirmed deaths so far this year,  144, is also higher than deaths recorded within the same period in 2022 (127).

Three states – Ondo, Edo, and Bauchi – account for almost three-quarters (72%) of all confirmed Lassa fever cases.

Meanwhile, 38 health workers have been infected this year 2023, with late presentation responsible for the case fatality ratio of 17.5%. Other challenges include poor health-seeking behaviour due to the high cost of treatment, poor environmental sanitation conditions in high-burden communities and a lack of awareness in high-burden communities.

NCDC said its response to the outbreak is through a One Health approach in affected local government areas, enhanced surveillance (contact tracing and active case finding) in affected states, monitoring of outbreak emergency composite indicators to guide action, diagnosis of all samples in the Eight Lassa fever testing laboratories across Nigeria, among others.

COVID-19 vaccinations reach 421 million 

Over 421 million people are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing 45.33% of the target population. Some 101 million people have received their booster doses from across the continent. 

Out of 1.105 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses received on the continent, 1.065 billion doses have been administered, representing a 96% administration rate. 

“We continue to work with our member states and our partners to increase availability of COVID-19 vaccines on the continent,” Ouma said.

WHO revealed that most countries saw the biggest jump in vaccine coverage from campaigns that were held from September to December of 2022. 

“In Cameroon, for example, the number of vaccinated people doubled after a mass-vaccination campaign in November. Mozambique has been one of the project’s success stories; nearly two-thirds of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated,” WHO stated.

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