By Sola Ogundipe
As global attention remains focused on the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus strain (2019nCoV) that has continued to spread across the world, the Federal Government says it is well positioned to handle cases of Coronavirus in the in the unlikely event that it is detected in Nigeria.
The Head of Research and Knowledge Management of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr Chinwe Lucia Ochu, who disclosed this in Lagos, said Nigeria has put enough measures in place to tackle such cases.
“The NCDC is well positioned to handle any case of Coronavirus that comes into the country. We are better prepared to manage Coronavirus if it comes to Nigeria than we were during the Ebola outbreak. Our system has been tested by other infectious diseases over time, and lessons learnt from theses outbreaks has further strengthened our capacity.”
Ochu, who spoke on a live Channels TV Sunrise programme “State of the Nation”, said there is collaboration between China and the Nigerian government especially through screening of incoming travelers.
“We are working closely with the Federal Ministry of Health Port Health Services to screen passengers at airports. We are confident that the Ports Health’s Service Division in the Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria will be able to detect these cases on time.”
Further reassuring Nigerians of government’s preparedness and the measures in place to prevent importation of the virus into Nigeria, Ochu stated: “We are coordinating a multisectoral group in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria Ports Health Service and partners to monitor the Coronavirus outbreak in parts of the world and developing preparedness measures.”
In the views of Dr Olaolu Aderinola, Head of Response Division, NCDC: “No case of Coronavirus has been detected in Nigeria. We are working closely with the Federal Ministry of Health Port Health Services to screen incoming travelers at airports and seaports. As information on the novel Coronavirus is rapidly unfolding, the world is working together on this.
“Symptoms of Coronavirus includes coughing, sneezing, breathing difficulties. Our message to Nigerians is to report immediately to the nearest health facility if you notice any of these symptoms.
“Health care workers should adhere to standard precautions at all times to ensure they protect themselves and that preparedness measures for the novel coronavirus is a collective responsibility.”
According to the NCDC, the case fatality rate from the novel Coronavirus outbreak in parts of the world is very low.
“There has been no case of CoronaVirus recorded in Nigeria. No travel restriction has been placed by WHO. Our advice to Nigerians is to limit contact with animals if you must visit China and ensure good personal hygiene at all times.”
On Thursday in response to the outbreak in Wuhan, China, the NCDC issued a public health advisory placing the Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria on alert and heightened screening measures at points of entry Into the country.
In the advisory, travelers from Nigeria to Wuhan, China, are advised to avoid contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead), and animal markets.
“Travelers from Wuhan to Nigeria, may be asked questions upon arrival by the Port Health Services unit at points of entry about symptoms of illness and travel history, and are advised to report immediately to NCDC, if they feel ill after a trip to Wuhan.”
The advisory said the Federal Ministry of Health through NCDC and its partners are fully committed to strengthening preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks and that information will be shared with the public as it becomes available.
Meanwhile, WHO’s Regional Office for Europe has officially been notified of the first novel coronavirus cases in Europe.
Three cases have been confirmed in France and WHO is in contact with the relevant authorities. WHO encourages countries in the European Region to continue to prepare.
The NCDC noted that as this is a new virus, and new information is emerging every day, this advisory will be updated as new information and research on the virus and its impact on populations become available.
It noted that the first case of the novel coronavirus strain (2019nCoV) was confirmed in China on the 7th of January, 2020.
“Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are normally transmitted between animals and people. A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain of the virus that has not been previously identified in humans.
The World Health Organization (WHO) convened its Emergency Committee on Thursday and said it was too early to declare the outbreak a “Public Health Event of International Concern” (PHEIC).
This new coronavirus, 2019nCoV, appears to cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms like cough and breathing difficulties. From current evidence, it appears that death is a rare outcome, and occurs mostly in patients with underlying illness.
There is no specific treatment for disease caused by the novel coronavirus yet. However, many of the symptoms can be treated. Therefore, treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition. In addition, supportive care for infected persons can be highly effective.
Nigeria’s preparedness and response
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is currently coordinating a multisectoral technical group that is assessing and managing the risk of importation to Nigeria. NCDC is in close communication with the World Health Organization (WHO) who is closely monitoring the situation globally. WHO is in direct communication with the Government of China and other affected countries, and has released technical and travel guidance.
The Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria has been placed on alert and has heightened screening measures at the points of entry. In China, exit screening measures have been enhanced for travellers from Wuhan city at the Points of Entry (PoE) (airports and ground transport stations) since the 14th of January, 2020. This includes temperature checks combined with provision of information and masks to passengers with fever, as well as directing symptomatic passengers to health facilities for follow up.
Nigerians are advised to remain calm. Travelers from Nigeria to Wuhan, China, are advised to avoid contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead), and animal markets.
Travelers from Wuhan to Nigeria, may be asked questions upon arrival by the Port Health Services unit at points of entry about symptoms of illness and travel history, and are advised to report immediately to NCDC if they feel ill after a trip to Wuhan.
How to protect yourself
To reduce the risk of spread of coronavirus, members of the public are advised to adhere to the following measures:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water.
- Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.
- Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
- Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.
- Healthcare workers are always advised to observe standard infection prevention and control measures when attending to patients and take a travel history.