Health, News

LASSA FEVER: Rat killer,  garri sellers experience contrasting fortunes as fear grips many


-Lagos hospital shut down,  after patient dies from virus-disease spreads,  now in 17 states,  claims 63 victims

In Nigerian parlance, one man’s food is another’s poison. This is certainly true about the recent outbreak of the Lassa Haemorrhagic Fever (LHF).

Now in 17 states, the disease – transmitted by the natal multimammate rat (mastomys natalensis) – has claimed 63 lives in Nasarawa, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Niger, Taraba, Rivers, Edo, Zamfara, Delta, Kano, Plateau, Gombe, Oyo, Kogi, Plateau and Abuja FCT; despite efforts by the National Centre for Disease Control, Abuja and others to curb the outbreak.

However, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole has lamented what he called a conspiracy of denial.

Speaking on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 at the emergency National Council of Health meeting in Abuja, he cited the refusal of Ebonyi to report five suspected cases and one death. He appealed to health managers to stop the trend of being silent and deceiving their state government.

But as fear, panic and anxiety grip the public over the epidemic, sellers of rat poison and traps are smiling to the bank as they are experiencing an unprecedented boom with patronage of their products peaking in recent weeks.

ENCOMIUM Weekly findings show that dwellers of slums and low-cost neighbourhoods in Lagos and its environs such as Agege, Okokomaiko, Sango, Agbado-Ijaiye, Mushin, Iyana Ipaja, Abule Egba, Oshodi, Ojuelegba, Ajegunle, Ojota – where the rate of rats is high, are now taking measures to rid their homes of the rodents with chemical killers and traps to prevent them coming in contact with food and contaminating it.

Our checks also revealed that not only has patronage of rat killer and traps jumped, their prices have followed suit, albeit slightly and in some areas. Before now, rat trap boards, popularly known as eku gum sold for N100, they now sell for N150 or N200. The board, made of gum, traps rats and has no poison. Food could be placed on them as bait, to catch the rats alive. The poison (which goes by the popular monikers lesekese, kill & dry and so le), on the other hand, still sells for N100, but are now hot cakes.

As the fear and panic has driven people to buy more rat killers, it has equally driven many away from cassava flakes (that’s garri), as garri traders have experienced a drop in patronage. This comes as medical experts, such as the Medical and Health Workers Union, Lagos, have warned against the consumption of soaked garri for now to avoid contracting the virus.

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