A strange disease that killed over 70 people in Kwara State some days ago may have spread to neighbouring Kogi State as over 50 people have died of the sickness in Okunran, Okoloke and Isanlu-Esa communities all in the Yagba West Local Government Area of the state.
The Kogi State Government on Thursday confirmed the outbreak of the strange disease.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Saka Audu, who disclosed this when he visited the affected villages however said the strange disease had claimed many lives in recent times.
He did not give the casualty figure but the villagers said over 50 persons had died of the ailment.
Although the commissioner said government had yet to know the exact cause of the disease, he said laboratory results had ruled out Lassa fever.
“We are here to assess the situation about the disease that had claimed the lives of so many people in this community and the surrounding villages in recent times. We are here to determine the cause of these mysterious deaths and then quickly proffer a solution to stop the tragedy. From this stage now, the government has taken full responsibility to take care of those who are already ill and to make sure that we arrest the spread of this disease.
“For now, it has been confirmed that it is not Lassa fever, but whatever it is, we will carry out further investigations with the information we have to come up with definitive diagnosis,” Audu said.
He noted that the information about the outbreak of the strange disease was received last week and the government immediately sent a technical team to take the sample which was sent to the General Hospital, Irua, Edo State, for definitive investigations.
He added, “We are going further to find out what the real cause may be, we don’t know what it is currently, but all hands are on deck to make sure that we find out the definitive cause of the mysterious deaths among the kids.”
A consultant at the Evangelical Church of West Africa Hospital, Egbe, Dr. Jannette Hathorn, said a two-year-old child who was brought to the hospital died after 12 hours.
“We had definitely had misleading news about patients bleeding around, so we tried to make diagnosis for viral haemorrhagic fever (Lassa fever), but the lab results came out negative. We are sure it is not Lassa fever but on the other hand, our concern is that we do not know exactly the cause of what was happening. We had a differential but we never came to a definitive diagnosis.
“Two other adult patients were brought here. One presented with ulcer-viral illness but there was no bleeding component of any haemorrhagic symptom. We isolated them and both of them were treated for malaria. So, when they started improving, we let them go.
“But our concern was another couple who brought their child to the hospital and later pleaded with us for help; that about 40 to 50 people had died in their village with similar symptoms as their child in the last three weeks.
“So, we called the World Health Organisation and our state health team, who came after the child had died yesterday (Wednesday), to take the sample of everything; we must know exactly what we are dealing with,” she said.
The Traditional Ruler of the Community, Oba J.D Ogunyanda, the Obalohun of Okoloke, appreciated the commissioner for coming to see them in spite of the difficulty of getting to their communities and the neighbouring Fulani settlements.
He said that the outbreak started over three weeks ago, and they immediately alerted the local government administrator to come to their aid.
The leader of the Fulani Settlement, Damina Ibrahim, told newsmen that the outbreak started about three weeks ago and mostly children and adult were affected.
Ibrahim, who said that the victims were stooling and vomiting with stains of blood, and had high body temperature, said they had used herbs to treat them at first.
He explained that those affected were taken to the hospital when they discovered that most of them were dying.
He added, “We have lost over 50 people and we are still having some of our sick ones at home.”
Experts who spoke to one of our correspondents said the outbreak in Kogi State should be investigated alongside that which occurred in Kwara State given their proximity.
It was reported last week that no fewer than 70 persons died of a strange illness in Oro-Ago community in the Ifelodun Local Government Area of Kwara State.
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Academy of Science, Dr. Doyin Odubanjo, who is a Public health physician,said epidemiologists and health officials working on the diagnosis of the disease must explore the connection and history of the patients involved.
Odubanjo said, “The state government is already doing what should be done. They have taken samples and they are investigating. They should check if there is something that can be used to tie all these cases together. Do they all live or play together? Or do they get water from the same source, those are questions and answers to these will help unravel the situation.”
A surgeon and the immediate Vice-Chairman, Ogun State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Kunle Ashimi, commended the Kogi State Government for acknowledging the outbreak and for taking necessary steps to investigate the cause.