This study was designed to assess the perception of stigma and experience of discrimination among family caregivers of Lassa fever patients.
Methods & Materials: Two focus group discussions(FGDs) consisting of seven and eight each were held with caregivers of Lassa fever patients admitted to the isolation ward of the Institute of Lassa fever research and control, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State, Nigeria.
The general topical themes for the discussions included: Awareness of Lassa fever and the consequences of being infected, understanding and perceptions of stigma by the respondents, sources of emotional and social support, and behavioural change communication.
Results: Majority (76%) of the respondents in both groups had previously heard of Lassa fever from different sources including health workers, schools, colleagues, and the media. Up to 80% of them in the two groups agreed to initial reactions of panic, disbelief and fear. A number of them(77%) did not disclose the type of illness to family members and friends for fear of patient or household members being stigmatized(P<0.05). Most respondents(68%) reported that the patient was often abandoned and caregivers were made to do the cleaning up of patient, and disposal of patient's waste and body fluids(P< 0.05).
Conclusion: Misconceptions and ignorance continue to be obstacles to successful control of Lassa fever in endemic communities in Nigeria.