Nigeria is responding to a successive yearly outbreak of yellow fever since the return of the disease in September 2017.
Since the beginning of the year 2020, a total of 1,558 suspected cases and 46 confirmed cases have been reported from 481 (62%) local government areas (LGAs) across all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The 46 confirmed cases were reported from 14 LGAs across eight states: Bauchi (8); Benue (3); Delta (8); Ebonyi (1); Edo (5); Ekiti (1); Enugu (19); Oyo (1).
This week alone, about 20 new confirmed cases were reported in Enugu (14), Benue (3), Delta (2), Ebonyi (1).
Of all cases, both suspected and confirmed, a total of 75 people have died.
This is according to the weekly epidemiology report by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) published on Friday night.
The country recorded 47 deaths from yellow fever throughout the whole of 2019.
An upsurge of yellow fever cases and deaths began in Enugu, Delta and Bauchi since September, where there has been a spike in deaths to “strange illnesses”.
Scores of deaths to the strange diseases were first reported in Enugu two weeks ago. Authorities in Enugu said the strange ailment had killed many people with an official saying over 50 people had died in parts of the state since early September when it began spreading.
Similarly, governments in Delta and Bauchi states also reported that the strange diseases also spreading in the states were suspected to be yellow fever, according to initial investigations.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in Kogi during a plenary sitting called on the state and federal ministries of health to unravel the cause of the ‘strange disease’ which has killed 50 persons in the Olamaboro Local Government Area of the state.
The Kogi State Commissioner for Health, Saka Audu, on Wednesday refuted the report that 50 persons had died in the state under strange circumstances in the said LGAs.
The NCDC said it is monitoring the situation in Kogi. A staff of the agency said the NCDC reached out to the state but they said there were no strange illnesses or deaths in the state.
Meanwhile, the NCDC confirmed that the strange deaths in Enugu, Delta and Bauchi were suspected cases of yellow fever.
Health officials said the recent spate of deaths to “strange illnesses” suspected to be Yellow fever have once again underscored the devastating impacts that an outbreak of infectious diseases can have on large populations if not properly monitored.
But health authorities said the progress in reducing and eradicating yellow fever and other diseases through mass vaccinations and local surveillance networks had been put at risk as services are refocused on the fight against COVID-19.
There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, which is largely transmitted in urban and rural settings by mosquitos, yet vaccinations are nearly 100 per cent effective.
Recent decades have seen the introduction of mass vaccination programmes to combat the disease. But in recent years, cases have begun to rise.
Before 2017, there had not been an outbreak of yellow fever in Nigeria for more than 20 years in Nigeria. The climate crisis, increased migration and fewer vaccination campaigns are among the reasons for the increase even before the coronavirus pandemic.
Henry Ewunonu, a public health expert, said there is a need for more testing.
“Yellow fever is an endemic disease in Nigeria. We should pay more attention to different symptoms shown and reported by local and state authorities over these strange deaths,” he said.
The medical doctor said, “all must get to work to stem the tide.”