Nigeria: Kano Moves to Unravel Cause of Mass Deaths

(file photo).
27 April 2020

Kano State government has finally responded to the people's agitations and concern over reported mass deaths of people in the state.

Daily Trust gathered that the state government has begun verbal autopsy to ascertain the possible causes of the deaths and to enable the authorities to take the necessary measure toward ending the problem.

The government's adoption of verbal autopsy was made known by the Deputy Coordinator of Kano State COVID-19 Response Team, Dr Sabitu Shu'aibu. He stated that the government had earlier put up a system to investigate if there was a link between COVID-19 and the deaths, adding that the system came up with the verbal autopsy method.

"Kano State government has begun house-to-house engagement with families of those that have died to carefully administer questions on the symptoms exhibited by the victims before they died. This is what is termed clinically as verbal autopsy and it will allow the health professionals to predict the possible causes of the recorded deaths," he said.

Similarly, Dr Usman Bashir of Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), stated that in an environment where an autopsy is not conducted due to some issues and when the dead had already been buried, verbal autopsy is the best way to go.

He noted that it is apparent that such deaths must be recorded because all attention is presently focused on the epidemic while other sicknesses are neglected, stressing that the adoption of verbal autopsy would unravel the mystery of the mass deaths.

"The verbal autopsies would surely unravel things that we are not even looking at because we have overstretched our energy and resources on COVID-19.

"It is a very good way of ascertaining the epidemic at hand or it could be that we are also experiencing another ongoing epidemic. Moreover, in an epidemic one has to work with rumour and suspicion and any observation of people should be taken seriously and also investigated scientifically," said Dr Usman.

Kano test centre remains closed

However, all attempt to get officials of the task force committee to comment on the status of the AKTH test centre proved abortive. But a source close to the committee told Daily Trust that the centre was still not operational as at yesterday. The source further revealed that most of the samples collected were taken to Abuja for testing.

It was however reliably gathered that the test centre has been shut down for about five days as it stopped testing since last week Wednesday.

Centre demands explanation on testing centre closure

The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has said the recent issue that dominated the public space was that of lack of activities at the only testing centre at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital. This was contained in a press statement issued in Kano signed by the Campaigns and Communication Officer of the information centre, Malam Ali Sabo.

It said the issue has generated a lot of confusion among people in the state and created mistrust between the people and the government, adding that many narratives were attached to the closure of the centre.

It said some people believed that the centre was closed due to the misunderstanding between the state government, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and people managing the centre, while others held that it was due to inadequacy of testing materials at the centre.

"Our investigation showed that the centre was closed due to routine fumigation, which by the NCDC standards, all testing centres have to undergo after a certain number of tests or number of days. Even at that, there is need for the people in charge of the Testing Centre at AKTH to come out and give official explanation on why the centre is closed.

"There is also the need for the state government to, as a matter of urgency, establish more testing centres as well as recruit more qualified, knowledgeable and experienced personnel to manage cases at the isolation centre.

"Our findings indicate that many of the people recruited and posted there have no experience or training in the management of infectious diseases such as the COVID-19 and therefore are not only a danger to themselves abut also likely to further be another chain for the spread of the virus in the state," CITAD stated.

BUK to establish COVID-19 centre to test 180 people daily -VC

Vice Chancellor Bayero University Kano Professor Muhammad Yahuza Bello has said the university is set to launch its COVID-19 test centre to complement the effort of government in containing the spread of the new coronavirus disease in the state. The VC disclosed this yesterday at a press briefing at the Kano State government house on COVID-19.

He said the test centre, which had gotten approval of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), would become operational in the next 10 days.

He said the NCDC officials had inspected the laboratories and equipment at the University's Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Control and had given approval for the centre to run tests for coronavirus.

He said over N50 million has been expended for the establishment of the facility.

"In Bayero University we have been making arrangements to see if we will be able to address this particular problem. Even if we cannot do all the testing, we are working on establishing a testing centre and our centre for infectious disease research in the university that has that capacity. We hope that in the next one week, maximum of 10 days, we are going to open a testing centre that will have the capacity of testing at least an average of 180 persons per day as against the 40 that the current centre does.

"To do that we have moved some equipment that were in other centres of the university. The PRC machines that we have in other places have been moved over to the centre. The bio-safety cabinets from other places have also been moved in.

"We are spending over N50m to put the centre up-to-date and also to purchase testing equipment.

"For the beginning, the order that we had now placed is at least 1500 testing kits that will last for at least 10 days when we start, but after that, we are to purchase more testing kits because the testing is most important," the VC stated.

Situation is getting tougher - Ganduje

Kano State governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, has stated that the COVID-19 situation in the state is getting tougher but assured that his administration is 100% committed to seeing an end to the pandemic.

"I will like to inform you that the situation is getting tougher and tougher; the situation is getting serious, and serious and very serious. But equally the same, we are determined. They say when the journey is tough only the tough can keep on moving. We assure you we will keep on moving until we see to the end of this deadly disease with the help of Allah (SWA)," he said.

Ganduje added that the state government has devised some measures such as boundary closure to curb the spread of the virus in the state. "Our borders continue to be blocked because this is the only way that we can limit inter-state transportation and getting infection from outside. We are happy that the northern state governors decided to lockdown for the next two weeks so all our borders are locked and they continue to be locked.

The governor also admitted that in terms of curative measures the state was facing some challenges. "In respect of the curative aspect, there is no doubt we have challenging problems. So far we have three types of isolation centres; we have one isolation centre which is in a hotel where we keep those whose samples have been taken and they are awaiting results. They remain in the hotel in individual rooms and when they are found negative they move to their homes, but when they are found to be positive we take them to the next level of isolation centre, "he said.

'Mysterious Deaths': Kano govt reacts

Kano State government on Sunday acknowledged recent deaths in Kano, assuring that it is on top of the situation as Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has already directed the Ministry of Health to conduct a thorough investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the deaths.

In a statement made available to journalists in Kano, the Commissioner of Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, said although investigation into the cause of the deaths is still ongoing, preliminary report from the state Ministry of Health indicated that the deaths were not connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that reports from the state Ministry of Health showed that most of the deaths were caused by complications arising from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis and acute malaria.

He further stated that Governor Ganduje was earnestly waiting for the final report from the Ministry of Health for necessary action.

According to him, the governor from the onset, demonstrated the zeal and political will to curb the spread of the COVID-19 in the state.

"Governor Ganduje's administration has been commended from within and outside the state over the proactive measures it took towards curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This explains why Kano, apart from being the most populous state, did not record any case of the pandemic until lately.

Though we agree that the situation on hand is serious, we are not resting on our oars in taking appropriate measures to ensure that the good people of Kano State, and indeed, residents in the state protect themselves from the novel COVID-19 pandemic," he stated.

He noted that, "the state government is concerned over what is happening. The Ministry of Health is already handling the situation. When they are through with the medical investigation, further necessary actions will be taken.

"I urge the good people of Kano State not to panic. Government is on top of the situation. The mystery or whatever it is will soon be unravelled," the statement said.

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