Nigeria: COVID-19 - Experts Speak As Nigeria Confirms 2 Cases

(File photo) Covid 19, Coronavirus
11 March 2020

Hopes that Nigeria might have contained the dreaded Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) were dashed Monday as Nigerians wake up to the news of a second confirmed case.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire who broke the news, said the second case - one of the contacts of the index case - had been under isolation in Ogun State.

The newly confirmed case had no significant clinical symptoms, the Minister revealed.

Ehanire maintained that all other contacts of the index case in Ogun and Lagos will remain in isolation and testing will be carried out on those not yet tested, including some in other states.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019, and the subsequent spread to other countries, one of the important response strategies at the containment stage, has been to identify all contacts, ensure their to follow up daily with checks for symptoms of the disease.

Following recent experiences from other countries and evidence from newly published studies on non-symptomatic infections, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, advised that samples should be taken from all contacts of the index case for testing. It was in this process that the 2nd Nigerian case was detected.

However, with the second case of disease even when medical experts yet to fully understand the epidemiology of the virus, health watchers are worried that Nigeria must stay clear of ambiguity in handling the process of containment.

Calling for strengthened containment measures, the experts say while the virus can be deadly, majority of those infected generally have only mild symptoms.

A virology expert at the University of Hong Kong, Dr Jin Dongyan, called for the avoidance of unnecessary panic and to get a clear picture of the likelihood of transmission.

Reacting to the development in a chat with Good Health Weekly, the National President of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile said with the latest case, Nigeria needs to continue with its precautionary measures to ensure that those infected are treated properly while those quarantined are monitored.

"There is need for the Federal government to ensure that the 14 days isolation period is mandatory with proper supervision," he remarked.

Faduyile, who noted that although there are many things yet unknown about the disease, said it is not as deadly as perceived.

"We should continue to promote community education, sensitisation and infection prevention until the virus is contained. It is time for Nigeria to strengthen its core capacities to respond to public health emergencies."

To contain the spread of the disease, Faduyile recommended screening at international airports and seaports, contact tracing, community education, and correct information dissemination.

He said collaboration, and communication among all health agencies and restriction of travels by citizens to high-risk countries, adding that government should enforce international standard routine screening of every traveller at the country's major international airports and seaports.

"For proper containing of the virus, I think restricting people coming from high-risk countries is okay but we cannot total shutdown on people coming from other parts of the world. It has not called for total shutdown from other countries into Nigeria."

Also speaking, the Lagos State Chairman, of the NMA, Dr Saliu Oseni, said with the second case, it was critical for the government to focus more on monitoring the other contacts under isolation to ensure we don't miss any case.

"It is also important for the government to carry out tests on them. Nigerians should continue with personal hygiene and the government should also amplify awareness in communities across the country.

"Stakeholders are of the view that Nigeria is expected to urgently take all necessary measures to slow the further spread and to protect health systems from becoming overwhelmed with patients seriously ill."

The Director-General of the World Health Organisation, WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, says COVID-19 epidemic is a threat for every country, rich and poor and that is why every country must act with speed, scale and clear-minded determination. According to Tedros, leaders of countries like Nigeria should mobilise their plans, coordinating every part of the government, not just the health ministry - security, diplomacy, finance, commerce, transport, trade, information and more - the whole government should be involved.

With the new development in Nigeria, the only choice is to act correctly and act now.

Also speaking, A former Commissioner for Health in Lagos State, Dr Jide Idris, said the Federal and State Governments should have built on the lessons learnt during the Ebola outbreak of 2014.

Speaking also at the 34th anniversary of Healthcare Magazine in Lagos on Monday, Idris, said, "During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, we all knew what we went through, but to some of us that was a lesson, especially in this part of the world, the virus caught us unawares, we can say yes, we stopped it in Lagos, but we were lucky because if we were not in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea.

Any right-thinking government will look at those things as a lesson and start to build on it; that is the concept of bio-security.

"COVID 19, they said the virus is unknown, if we can recollect, sometime last year, WHO mentioned disease x, did they tell you what the kind of disease it was?

"They said it was going to cause confusion in the world, and then we don't know, but the fact is that all of us must be ready and be prepared.

"COVID 19 is affecting six continents right now, 103 countries confirmed cases globally is over 100,000 with about 3,700 deaths so far. This is not to scare us, the lesson from here is to understand what is happening, imbibe the knowledge and help us to go back to prepare. COVID 19 is not as deadly as Ebola.

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