an assessment of the print media in creating awareness campaign of lassa fever in nigeria



1.1       Background of the Study 

Lassa fever (LF) or Lassa haemorrhagic fever (LHF) is an acute viral illness caused by the Lassa virus which was first discovered and isolated in 1969 in the town of Lassa in Borno State of Nigeria. Lassa virus is a member of the Arenaviridae virus. The primary host of the virus is the Natal multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis), found commonly in most of Sub-Saharan Africa. The fever has been reported to be primarily spread by contact with the faeces or urine of rodents (McCormick, 2011).

It is endemic among the rodent population in countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, where it is known to cause outbreaks on an almost annual basis (World Health Organisation, 2016). Given its high rate of incidence, Lassa fever is a major problem in affected countries (Centre for Disease Control, 2014a and 2014b). Lassa fever commonly occurs in West Africa resulting in 300,000 to 500,000 cases annually with 5,000 deaths per year (Richmond, 2003). Disease outbreaks have been commonly observed in Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Benin, Ghana and lately Mali, but probably exists in other West African countries as well (World Health Organisation, 2016). Overall, the case fatality rate (CFR) has been reported to be 1% while those from hospitalized patients with severe Lassa fever reach 15% (World Health Organisation, 2016). Clinical manifestation of Lassa fever is extremely difficult to distinguish from other febrile illness and most often at the initial phase (Bausch, 2001). Symptoms such as gastrointestinal, pharyngitis and cough are common signs. However late complications of Lassa fever include convulsion, facial oedema, pleural and pericardial effusions, bleeding and coma. The terminal stages of illness include shock (Bausch, 2001).

The drug of choice in humans is ribavirin which is better commenced early before one week of infection for survival (McCormick, 2011). Prevention of Lever fever has been reported to be effective when good community hygiene is promoted so as to discourage rodents from entering homes (World Health Organisation, 2016). Such effective measures include proper garbage disposal far from home, maintenance of clean households and cat storage as well as storage of grains and other foodstuffs in rodent proof containers. Furthermore, health workers and staff should always apply standard infection prevention and control when caring for patients regardless of their presumed diagnosis (World Health Organisation, 2016).

The report by Senthilingam of CNN in 17 March 2016 (downloaded from the internet on 25th May 2016) showed that more than 130 died from LF in 22 states and as at 14 March as reported by NCDC, the total number of suspected cases were 254 with 137 deaths (suspected and probable) and CFR of 53.9%. This was compared with the 2012 outbreak of Lassa fever with 1,700 infected and 112 deaths. From the Vanguard publication of 5 April 2016 by Olawale on the UN organisation report on Lassa fever more than 160 were killed in West Africa with Nigeria accounting for 85% (138) out of 164 of Lassa fever cases.

The print media serves as a source of cultural, political, health and other educational and enlightenment programmes for the masses, leading them towards self-actualisation and national development (Ellinas, 2010). Print media is a medium of communication through which the individuals share the world around them and beyond their immediate environment. The print media educates citizens on new issues inherent in the society. For example, issues on health, politics, business, current affairs, etc, are aired to create awareness. Media serves as an agent of social mobilisation, people are moved to delivering a certain goal, based on their awareness of their rights and responsibility to the society (Cohen, 2001).

The print media helps health workers expand their audience reach, which is crucial considering the fact that face-to-face channels of communication often require too many human resources and reach only a small number of people in large, underserved rural areas. The print media provides an important link between the rural residents and vital health information.

The print media are effective way to persuade target audiences to adopt new behaviors, or to remind them of critical information. Besides informing the public about Lassa fever: symptoms, treatment, prevention and where to seek help, they can also keep the public updated about vaccination campaigns. The print media can “empower rural populations to fight major causes of Lassa fever epidemic such as maintaining a clean and healthy environment, can be prevented through vaccination, inform large numbers of people for the benefits of living a healthy life (Hartman, 2010).

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Lassa fever is a life-threatening blood disease caused by black rat. People with Lassa fever often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. Left untreated, they may develop severe complications and die. Lassa fever is diverstating families, made poor; poorer and costs the nation about 140 billion naira annually”. It hampers children’s schooling and social development in general.  The problem necessitating this study is thus: what is the effectiveness of the print media in sensitizing people against Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria.

1.3     Objectives of the Study

The basic objectives of this study are:

  1. To examine the causes of Lassa fever in Nigeria
  2. To ascertain the awareness level of print media campaigns against Lassa fever in Nigeria.
  3. To determine how audience response to Lassa fever campaigns on print media in Nigeria.
  4. To find out the demographic factors that affect audience awareness to Lassa fever campaigns by print media in Nigeria?
  5. To find the challenges hindering print media campaigns of Lassa fever in Nigeria?</

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