The federal government has admitted that it did not “respond appropriately” to the outbreak of Lassa fever in Ebonyi state.
The disease claimed the lives of two doctors in the state on January 14.
Isaac Adewole, minister of health, said the outbreak of other diseases like monkeypox, yellow fever and meningitis diverted the government’s attention.
Adewole spoke on Saturday during a visit to the state to ascertain the situation report of the disease.
He said: “When it occurred, we quickly dispatched rapid response team to Ebonyi, we also dispatched to Ondo and Kogi states, these were 3 major states hit by Lassa fever to access the outbreak.
“So we are committed over eliminating the disease in Nigeria but it is unfortunate, you handed over the laboratory (centre) to us but because of few other things, we did not respond appropriately with the operationalization of the centre.
“This is because we had other challenges in the country, we had monkeypox, we had meningitis and yellow fever in some states like Zamfara, Kogi and Kwara.
“We reacted accordingly immediately we learnt of the outbreak, as the government’s duty is to support states and we expect them to be in a position to respond accordingly.
“We only come to their rescue when the situation is beyond them because there is a Commissioner of Health on ground; this makes us offer only additional support.
“We are not supposed to take care of the states’ health care, as I have seen patients and staff at the virology centre, we have noted the gaps and would fill in the gaps accordingly.”
Dave Umahi, the state governor, represented by Kelechi Igwe, his deputy, had earlier said, “we are not happy over the development and have declared the outbreak of the disease in the state, even if other affected states have not done that.
“We know that accessing money from the Federal Government is not easy but we want the health minister to redouble his efforts to ensure that funds and other logistics are released promptly to check such outbreaks.
“We thought that the government should have made the centre operational to make it respond to such outbreaks, as it serves states in South East and neighbouring ones as Benue, Cross River and Akwa Ibom.
“We recorded 16 cases, nine confirmed cases, six suspected cases, one probable index case; eight persons admitted at the virology centre, one admitted in Irrua, Edo.”