The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has directed health facilities nationwide to send suspected cases of Lassa Fever to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research for investigation.
The directive followed a report received by the Service on outbreaks of Lassa Fever in some countries in the West Africa sub-region – Liberia, Nigeria, and Togo.
The step, according to a statement from the Service, signed by its Director General, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, and copied to the Ghana News Agency, had become necessary given the proximity of the affected countries both geographically and through travel.
“… it is important that heightened surveillance is implemented to ensure the prompt identification and appropriate investigation of any suspected case,” it said.
Lassa Fever is caused by the Lassa virus transmitted from Mastomys rats to humans primarily through food or items contaminated with the rat faeces or urine.
Human-to-human transmission can also occur to a lesser extent in instances of direct contact with body fluids, blood, and secretions of infected individuals.
In line with the 3rd Edition of Ghana’s Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) Strategy, the statement said the following case definitions were to be applied in suspecting and investigating for Lassa Fever.
They were illness with gradual onset with one or more of the following – malaise, fever, headache, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, myalgia, chest pain, hearing loss and a history of contact with excreta of rodents or with a case of Lassa Fever.
A suspected case that was laboratory confirmed (positive IgM antibody, PCR, or virus isolation) or epidemiologically linked to a laboratory confirmed case, was considered as a confirmed case of Lassa Fever, the statement said.
“All suspected cases of Lassa Fever should be investigated in line with protocols outlined in Ghana’s IDSR Technical Guidelines with strict adherence to infection prevention and control protocols,” it said.
The statement admonished the Chief Executive Officers or leadership of the various regional health facilities to bring the directive to the notice of all relevant staff in their respective regions and facilities.