By Chioma Obinna
D r. Salu Olumuyiwa is of the Virology Unit of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos. In this interview, Olumuyiwa gives insight into how people should prevent being infected with Coronavirus. He expresses optimism that Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, and other centres can detect and handle the disease. The medical virologist also reveals how the first Coronavirus case was confirmed at LUTH.
How ready is LUTH?
Infection Preventive Capacity, IPC, has been enhanced both in LUTH and Mainland Hospital with the provision of adequate protective equipment and gadgets. The capacities of healthcare workers have also been beefed up. All protective measures necessary for infection prevention and control have been put in place. There are enough Personal Protective Equipment, PPEs, both at the designated hospitals and laboratories. Nigerian experts are not worried as we are all ramping up activities to prepare and respond to possible cases of COVID-19 in the country. Unfortunately, this morning (Friday morning) we recorded one.
LUTH just detected one case. How long did this test last?
The detection process took less than two hours with both extraction of Ribonucleic Acid, RNA, and detection using Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR. The Real-Time PCR was established by the NCDC with internal controls and positive controls that were assayed along with the sample. The assay had been set up and earlier tested with panels of samples for the optimization of the testing platform for weeks before now. The laboratory personnel had also been adequately trained on the RT-PCR platform for such detection.
Is treatment possible?
Treatment will involve the use of antiretroviral drugs and possibly Chloroquine as being used in countries experiencing outbreak. Other palliative care and support will also be used to relieve symptoms.
Why is this more than influenza?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a novel Coronavirus (SARS Coronavirus 2) first identified during an outbreak in Wuhan China. The disease is a respiratory illness that can spread from humans to humans. COVID-19 was thought to have emerged from an animal source but sustained human to human transmission remains the driver of this disease. The major signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. It is more than influenza. Why it is more than influenza is because of the complications that arise with the development of pneumonia in both lungs which is the major cause of death.
How can individuals protect themselves?
The best way to protect oneself from COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to the virus. But there are simple everyday activities that could help in preventing the risk of infection which are very effective. There is a need to avoid close contact with sick people. People should avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. When soap and water are not available, use alcohol based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
How can this virus be destroyed?
Cooking is another means of destroying the virus as it is said to have originated from the animal kingdom.
There are ambiguities over the nature of the disease. Is it airborne?
Since this is a respiratory disease, it is airborne. The initial incubation period from the outbreak was about 14 days. However, there have been some reports that the incubation period could be longer than 14 days (between 20 to 30 days).
How important is face mask?
Useful face masks disallows viruses to pass through. Thus, the pore size of the masks is significantly important. Not just the ordinary face masks available in the market.
Is Nigeria ready for the outbreak?
Measures have already been put in place to handle COVID-19. There is a heightened level of suspicion, particularly for those who are coming from countries with reported cases of COVID-19. The detection platform for COVID-19 has been established in the country. There are isolation facilities in different healthcare settings. They are on standby.
There are enough reagents available in the three laboratories designated for the testing for COVID-19. The three labs are just the initial laboratories that have been activated for COVID-19. There are other laboratories in the NCDC laboratory network that could also be activated if need be.
What is the capacity of the quarantine facility at LUTH?
The quarantine facility is not limited to LUTH but also available at the Mainland Hospital, formerly Infectious Disease Hospital under Lagos State government. Both facilities are ready with capacities for many patients. There are also rooms for expansion within the facilities.