An Assessment Of The Print Media In Awareness Campaign Of Lassa Fever In Nigeria

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An Assessment Of The Print Media In Awareness Campaign Of Lassa Fever In Nigeria

Chapter One


1.2 Background of the Study

Lassa fever is a zoonotic disease, meaning that humans become infected from contact with infected animals. The animal reservoir, or host, of Lassa virus is a rodent of the genus Mastomys, commonly known as the “multimammate rat.” Mastomys rats infected with Lassa virus do not become ill, but they can shed the virus in their urine and faeces. Because the clinical course of the disease is so variable, detection of the disease in affected patients has been difficult. When presence of the disease is confirmed in a community, however, prompt isolation of affected patients, good infection prevention and control practices, and rigorous contact tracing can stop outbreaks.

Lassa fever is known to be endemic in Republic of Benin (where it was diagnosed for the first time in November 2014), Ghana (diagnosed for the first time in October 2011), Guinea, Liberia, Mali (diagnosed for the first time in February 2009), Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, but probably exists in other West African countries as well (Uzoma, 2014).

Humans usually become infected with Lassa virus from exposure to urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats. Lassa virus may also be spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of a person infected with Lassa fever (Kiragu, 2002). There is no epidemiological evidence supporting airborne spread between humans. Person-to-person transmission occurs in both community and health-care settings, where the virus may be spread by contaminated medical equipment, such as re-used needles. Sexual transmission of Lassa virus has been reported.

Lassa fever occurs in all age groups and both sexes. Persons at greatest risk are those living in rural areas where Mastomys are usually found, especially in communities with poor sanitation or crowded living conditions. Health workers are at risk if caring for Lassa fever patients in the absence of proper barrier nursing and infection prevention and control practices (Agudosi, 2007).

The Lassa virus is transmitted by rodents and poses potential disease ecology and public health impact. The first case of Lassa fever globally was identified in Lassa, a settlement in Borno State, North East Nigeria in 1969 (Bausch, 2001). It is spread by contact with infected rodent’s feces or urine, inhaling contaminated dust, eating contaminated food or by contact with the fluids of an infected person dead or alive. The multimammate mouse, Mastomys natalensis is the rodent reservoir of the Arena spp. the virus responsible.

Nigeria is no doubt now endemic for Lassa fever, there was an observed 21.3% seropositive prevalence in a countrywide study. A brief comparison between January to August for 2016 and 2017 was made for Lassa fever virus burden in Nigeria. In 2016 by 32nd week, 9.53% of suspected cases were confirmed by laboratory tests. However, of the 75 laboratory confirmed cases 90 deaths occurred i.e. 120% laboratory case fatality. That means 20% of observed Lassa fever related deaths were not confirmed as cases by laboratory tests hinting to a systems gap in the disease detection and surveillance. However, by 2017, this observed health systems gap in infectious disease and outbreak detection and surveillance was not appropriately addressed (Moore, 2016). Of the suspected Lassa fever cases, 24.68% were laboratory confirmed while 59.79% of laboratory confirmed cases ended up in deaths. This showed a remarkable improvement against the previous year when mortality was experienced outside of laboratory confirmed cases. In this scenarios, 40.21% of laboratory confirmed cases has been helpful to improve case treatment and reduced Lassa fever morbidity and mortality. A comparison between s 2015 and 2016 Lassa fever epidemics showed how overwhelmed the health system in Nigeria was at that time. It was observed that 5.81% of suspected cases were laboratory confirmed. However, 16.0% of laboratory confirmed cases resulted in deaths. That means 60% of Lassa fever related deaths were not accounted for by laboratory confirmation. In year 2016, 11.83% of suspected cases were confirmed in the laboratory.

A similarly study was carried out by Kiragu (2002,p.18) to determine the influence of print media messages in promoting healthy living in Nigeria. The results of their study attested to the fact that the print media campaign via, print materials, as well as advocacy proved to be successful in communicating the policy to the people. According to Kiragu, (2002) the number of first time users in sentinel clinics rose by 24% over pre-campaign levels, and the number of continuing users rose to 30% respectively.

In addition, it is important to state here that in recognizing the potent tool of the print media and communication in general towards the improvement of public health and specifically to combat killer diseases such as Lassa fever, polio, and a host of other deadly diseases, international organizations like World Health organizations. United Nations and other relevant agencies have used the print media extensively in providing public enlightenment and advocacy role in stemming the tide of these deadly diseases. For instance, the roll Back Malaria campaign and the Immunization programme are good examples where the print media are largely used to popularize the campaign (Bello, 2012). From the foregoing, it can be deduced that the Nigerian media have been living up to their social responsibility in alerting the populace on the outbreak of any deadly disease in the country.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Lassa fever is a life-threatening disease, a known endemic infectious disease of poverty has emerged as a severe outbreak of public health threat and burden in Nigeria. People with Lassa fever often experience fever, myalgia, cough, pharyngitis, vomiting and restrosternal pain, chills, and flu-like illness headache. Left untreated, they may develop severe complications and die. Lassa fever is diverstating families, made poor; poorer and costs the nation about 140 billion naira annually”. It hampers children’s schooling and social development in general. The problem necessitating this study is therefore: What is the role of the print media in sensitizing and creating awareness against Lassa fever.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The basic objectives of this study are:

  1. To examine the nature of Lassa fever in Nigeria.
  2. To ascertain the awareness level of Lassa fever in Nigeria.
  3. To assess the print media level of awareness campaigns against Lassa fever in Nigeria.
  4. To find out the demographic factors that affect audience awareness to Lassa fever campaigns by print media in Nigeria?

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