Overcoming perennial burden of preventable diseases

In Nigeria, the battle against preventable public health microbial diseases such as Hepatitis, Meningitis, Yellow fever, Lassa fever, Cholera, Rotavirus among others has been a perennial struggle. These preventable diseases pose significant challenges to the country’s healthcare system and development, leading not only to high morbidity and mortality rates but with financial burden.

Their consequences are particularly burdensome among vulnerable populations especially among the poor and underprivileged Nigerians. To overcome what has become perennial epidemics of these diseases requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach particularly by States and Federal Governments that addresses the social, economic, and environmental factors contributing to their spread.

Hepatitis is a viral infection that affects the liver and can lead to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. In Nigeria, Hepatitis B and C are the most prevalent forms of the disease, with millions of people infected. The lack of awareness, limited access to healthcare services, and low vaccination rates contribute to the ongoing spread of Hepatitis in the country.

To overcome the perennial epidemic of Hepatitis, efforts should focus on increasing public awareness about the disease, promoting vaccination programmes, and improving healthcare infrastructure to ensure early detection and treatment.

Meningitis, an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, is another significant microbial disease of great public concern in Nigeria. The country’s semi-arid region, known as the “meningitis belt,” experiences recurrent outbreaks of meningitis due to environmental factors such as dust storms and overcrowding. Vaccination campaigns have been instrumental in reducing the burden of meningitis, but challenges remain in reaching rural and under-served communities. Strengthening surveillance systems, ensuring timely response to outbreaks, and improving access to vaccines are essential steps in overcoming the epidemic of meningitis in Nigeria.

Lassa fever, a viral haemorrhagic fever transmitted through contact with infected rodents, is endemic especially in Northern Nigeria. The disease poses a significant threat to public health, with outbreaks occurring annually during the dry season. Poor sanitation practices, inadequate healthcare infrastructure, and limited access to diagnostic tools contribute to the challenges in combating Lassa fever. Improving hygiene practices, enhancing healthcare capacity for early diagnosis and treatment, and raising awareness about preventive measures are essential in overcoming the epidemic of Lassa fever in Nigeria.

Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease that can cause severe illness and death. Nigeria has experienced periodic outbreaks of yellow fever, with the recent resurgence prompting vaccination campaigns in high-risk areas. The limited availability of vaccines and challenges in reaching remote communities have hindered efforts to control the spread of the disease. Enhancing mosquito control measures, expanding vaccination coverage, and strengthening surveillance are crucial strategies for preventing and controlling yellow fever outbreaks in Nigeria.

Cholera, a waterborne bacterial disease, remains a persistent threat in Nigeria, especially during the rainy season when flooding and contaminated water sources facilitate its spread. Inadequate sanitation and hygiene practices, as well as limited access to clean water, contribute to the high burden of cholera in the country. Strengthening water and sanitation infrastructure, promoting proper hygiene practices, and enhancing surveillance and response mechanisms are critical in preventing and controlling cholera outbreaks in Nigeria.

Rotavirus is a leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children worldwide, resulting in high mortality rates, particularly in low-resource settings like Nigeria. The lack of access to clean water, poor sanitation facilities, and low vaccination coverage contribute to the prevalence of rotavirus infection in the country. Introducing rotavirus vaccination into the national immunisation programme, promoting breastfeeding practices, and improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities are essential in reducing the burden of rotavirus-related morbidity and mortality in Nigeria.

Overcoming the perennial epidemic of microbial diseases in Nigeria requires a comprehensive and integrated approach that addresses the underlying factors contributing to their spread. By strengthening public health infrastructure, promoting vaccination programmes, improving access to healthcare services, enhancing surveillance and response capabilities, and raising awareness about preventive measures, Nigeria can make significant strides in mitigating the impact of diseases like hepatitis, meningitis, yellow fever, Lassa fever, cholera, and rotavirus on its population.

Collaboration between government, healthcare providers, communities, and international partners is vital in tackling these challenges and building a healthier future for all Nigerians. States and Federal Governments are urgent to ensure adequate budget provisions and releases for health to curb these preventable outbreaks.

Developmental projects in the area of provision of portable water, housing good sanitary practices particularly with respect the disposal of human wastes are efforts that can help prevent these perennial outbreaks and improve the health of Nigeria citizens.
Aribodor is Professor of Public Health Parasitology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, he can be reached via: dn.aribodor@unizik.edu.ng

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