Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu

The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has said the country is ready to host the first Lassa fever international conference.

Ihekweazu in a statement made available to our correspondent said the conference was organised to mark the 50 years since the Lassa fever virus was first isolated in a town in Nigeria.

He said that the conference was organised in partnership with other stakeholders would hold between January 16 and 17, 2019 in Abuja.

“The opportunity created by the ‘anniversary’ of the discovery of the virus, is being used to bring researchers and practitioners from across the world.

“The researchers and practitioners will share and appraise global efforts towards the control of the Lassa fever virus disease,” Ihekweazu said.

He noted that the conference would also be an opportunity to increase global health focus on the disease which was found mostly in West Africa.

The NCDC CEO said that more cases of Lasa fever were being detected as awareness and disease surveillance systems improve across West African countries. He noted that this has created an increased sense of urgency for the global health community to do more through better prevention, disease detection, control, and case management efforts.

“In 2018, the World Health Organisation launched its Research and Development blueprint, highlighting the potential of Lassa fever and a selected list of diseases to lead to public health emergencies.

“This plan highlights the absence of efficacious drugs and vaccines, and further highlights the urgent need for accelerated research and development,” Ihekweazu said.

Ihekweazu further said that the conference would afford the global audience to learn about efforts towards new strategies to prevent transmission of the virus from rodents to human.

He also said that new approaches to reduce hospital transmission of the disease, as well as new insights into the social context of Lassa transmission, would be known.

The NCDC boss stressed that current efforts on new Lassa fever vaccines, therapeutics, and clinical treatment approaches would also be key highlights at the conference.

“To prepare for the conference, NCDC called for scientific efforts into prevention, detection, and control efforts to be showcased at the conference.

“This yielded more than 500 abstracts from which 160 top quality papers were selected. In addition, travel scholarships were granted to 80 researchers from across Nigeria and West Africa.

“With this, NCDC will work with partners to develop a strong reform agenda for Lassa fever control in Nigeria and globally,” Ihekweazu submitted.

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