Nigerian doctors may begin an action of refusal to attend to patients with Lassa fever if they are not provided with the right equipment to protect themselves, BBC reports.
Dr Mike Ozovehe Ogirima, president of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) stated that eight doctors had died of the disease since the beginning of the year after contracting it from patients.
He issued the warning as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) issued its latest figures showing that Lassa fever has now spread to 20 states in Nigeria, killing 142 people since January.
Dr Ogirima said the authorities should do more than just “enough” to end the outbreak.
Lassa fever is usually transmitted to humans via food and objects contaminated with rodent urine or faeces.
Health Minister Isaac Adewole told reporters that the government was putting in more resources to tackle the outbreak.
He admitted the government was worried with increase in the number of health practitioners contacting the disease.
“It represents a new dimension because for doctors and others it is human-to-human [transmission]. But we are confident that in the next one or two months everything will fizzle out.”
Most people who catch Lassa will have only mild symptoms such as fever, headache and general weakness.
However, in severe cases, it can mimic another deadly haemorrhagic fever, Ebola, causing bleeding through the nose, mouth and other parts of the body.
Just some few days back, the death of a young doctor sparked intense debate on social media in Nigeria. The female resident died from Lassa fever in the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, in the eastern Abia State.
One fellow doctor took to social media to say she was no longer prepared to put her life at risk without the government providing proper protection equipment.
To give her support, Dr Adebayo Sekunmade – who is president of the Association of Resident Doctors at Lagos University Teaching Hospital – said equipment needed was simply not available.
“The fact that the hazard allowance is a joke is not something that will encourage doctors to make sacrifices for their patients. In that light, I think most doctors think twice before attending to patients with Lassa fever and other potentially dangerous conditions in patients.”
But the medical director of the hospital where the young doctor died defended their systems, saying it was the first death they had recorded.
“We observe universal safety precaution and all we are trying to do also is to review and strengthen what is already available in the hospital,” he said.