The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and its partners will host the first Lassa Fever International Conference between 16th and 17th of January 2019 in Abuja. This is to mark fifty years since the Lassa fever virus was first isolated, in a town in Nigeria.
The opportunity created by the ‘anniversary’ of the discovery of the virus, is being used to bring researchers and practitioners from across the world together, to share and appraise global efforts towards the control of the Lassa fever virus disease.
Plenary speakers at the conference include the Executive Governor of Nassarawa State – H.E. Umar Tanko Almakura, Chair National Lassa fever Steering Committee Nigeria – Professor Oyewale Tomori, Chief Medical Director Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital Nigeria – Prof. Sylvanus Okogbenin, Technical Team Lead National Lassa Fever Working Group – Mrs. Elsie Ilori, Team lead – VHF World Health Organization (WHO) – Dr. Pierre Formenty, Head of Virology Bernard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine Germany – Prof. Stephan Gunther, Head of Virology Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research University of Ghana Accra – Prof. William Kwabena Ampofo, Director UK Public Health Rapid Support Team – Prof. Daniel Bausch, Team Leader for Implementation Research Initiative for Vaccine Research WHO – Dr. Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, Director Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases Redeemers University – Prof. Christian Happi, and Chief Executive Officer of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) – Richard J. Hatchett, MD.
The first Lassa Fever International Conference is also an opportunity to increase global health focus on the disease, which is found mostly in West Africa. Sierra Leone, Benin Republic, Liberia, Nigeria, and Guinea continue to record cases and deaths from Lassa fever annually. As awareness and disease surveillance systems improve across these countries, mores cases are being detected. 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 Organization 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/or vaccines, and further highlights the urgent need for accelerated research and development.
At the Lassa Fever International Conference, a global audience will learn about efforts towards new strategies to prevent transmission of the virus from rodents to human, new approaches to mitigating hospital transmission of the disease as well as new insights into the social context of Lassa transmission. Current efforts on new Lassa fever vaccines, therapeutics, and clinical treatment approaches will 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 over 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.
The Lassa Fever International Conference brings stakeholders together for a meeting full of learning and exchange of ideas. With this, NCDC will work with partners to develop a strong reform agenda for Lassa fever control in Nigeria and globally.