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Nigeria To Host 1st Lassa Fever International Conference Next Week



The Nigerian government will host the first Lassa Fever International Conference in Abuja to mark the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the disease, Naija News understands.

Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF), is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus.

The virus was first isolated 50 years ago in Lassa, a town in Borno State in northeast Nigeria, for which it has been named.

The conference, organised by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and its partners, will hold January 16 and 17. It aims to increase global health focus on a disease found mostly in West Africa.

Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria recorded its highest death toll in 2018 with 146 dead as at December 2.

Between January 1 and December 2 that year, 23 states reported 3,229 suspected cases of which 581 were confirmed positive, 17 probable and 2631 negative (not a case).

According to a statement on Tuesday by the Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, the conference will bring researchers and practitioners from across the world together to appraise global efforts towards the control of Lassa fever.

“At the Lassa Fever International Conference, a global audience will learn about efforts towards new strategies to prevent transmission of the virus from rodents to human, new approaches to mitigating hospital transmission of the disease as well as new insights into the social context of Lassa transmission.

“Current efforts on new Lassa fever vaccines, therapeutics and clinical treatment approaches will also be key highlights at the conference,” Mr Ihekweazu said

He said as awareness and disease surveillance systems improve across Africa countries, more cases are being detected.

This, he said, has created an increased sense of urgency for the global health community to do more through better prevention, disease detection, control, and case management efforts.

In 2018, the World Health Organisation launched its Research and Development blueprint highlighting the potential of Lassa Fever and a selected list of diseases to lead to public health emergencies.

This plan highlights the absence of efficacious drugs and/or vaccines and the urgent need for accelerated research and development. In preparation for the conference, the agency called for scientific efforts into prevention, detection, and control efforts to be showcased at the conference.

This yielded over 500 abstracts from which 160 top quality papers were selected. In addition, travel scholarships were granted to 80 researchers from across Nigeria and West Africa.

Plenary speakers expected at the conference include the governor of Nassarawa, Tanko Al-makura; Chair National Lassa Fever Steering Committee Nigeria, Oyewale Tomori; and the Chief Medical Director of Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State, Sylvanus Okogbenin.

Also marked for appearance are the Technical Team Lead, National Lassa Fever Working Group, Elsie Ilori, Team Leader of VHF at World Health Organisation (WHO), Pierre Formenty; the Head of Virology Bernard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine Germany, Stephan Gunther; and the Head of Virology, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research University of Ghana, Accra, William Ampofo.

Others are the Director, UK Public Health Rapid Support Team, Daniel Bausch, Team Leader for Implementation Research Initiative for Vaccine Research, WHO, Ana Maria Restrepo; Director, Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases Redeemers University, Christian Happi; and Chief Executive Officer of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Richard J. Hatchett.

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