By Abujah Racheal
Abuja, March 1, 2020
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has released the fourth public health advisory on the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) to Nigerians.
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General of NCDC, made available a copy of the advisory to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
NAN reports that COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is a new strain of the virus that has not been previously identified in humans.
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Ihekweazu said that this was an updated advisory on the COVID-19 disease, following confirmation of the first case in Nigeria on the Feb. 27, 2020.
“This advisory will be updated frequently to reflect new information and research emerging on the disease and its impact on populations.
“On the February 28, 2020, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Nigeria. The index case is an Italian businessman who arrived Nigeria from Milan, Italy, on the 25th of February, 2020.
” The case was confirmed at the Virology Laboratory of Lagos University Teaching Hospital on the 27th of February 2020. This laboratory is part of the network of laboratories supported by the NCDC.
“Prior to laboratory confirmation, the patient had travelled to Ogun State for a business meeting. The index case is clinically stable, with mild symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” he explained.
He said that the FMoH through NCDC had activated a national Emergency Operations Centre(EOC) at the highest level and was leading the national response.
He added that a National Rapid Response Team had been deployed to support Lagos and Ogun State Governments with contact tracing and required response activities.
“Currently, there are four laboratories in NCDC’s molecular laboratory network, with the capacity to test for COVID-19 in Nigeria. These laboratories are sufficiently equipped with reagents and supplies for testing.
“NCDC is in contact with all states to increase the index of suspicion to ensure cases are detected early,” he said.
The director-general said the FMoH had also intensified surveillance at points of entry in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and FCT, particularly for returning travelers with travel history to countries with ongoing transmission.
“Presently, World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available.
“An intensive communications campaign has begun to provide regular updates and accurate information to Nigerians on protecting themselves,” he said.
Ihekweazu said that Nigerians could reduced the risk of COVID-19 by adhering to the following measures:
• Wash your hands frequently with soap under running water or use alcohol-based sanitizer if water is not available.
• Cover your mouth and nose properly with a tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. Dispose of the tissue properly immediately after use. You may also cough into your elbow if a tissue is not available.
• Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
• Healthcare workers are always advised to observe standard infection prevention and control measures when attending to patients and take a travel history.
He said that travelers exiting and entering screening had been intensified across several countries, particularly countries with ongoing local transmission.
“This includes temperature checks and provision of accurate information on preventive measures at airports.
“In Nigeria, the Port Health Services of the FMoH has heightened screening measures at points of entry. In addition to automated temperature screening at points of entry, travelers are given a contact form to fill and asked questions upon arrival about symptoms of illness and travel history.
“Travelers without symptoms on departure but become unwell in transit are advised to self-report to the Port Health Services on arrival.
“Travelers from countries with ongoing local transmission, but who show no symptoms on arrival should self-isolate at home for 14 days after arrival.
“If travelers from countries with ongoing local transmission feel ill with fever, cough or difficulty breathing within 14 days of arrival in Nigeria, please:
“Observe self-isolation immediately by staying indoors and avoiding contact with people.
“Call the NCDC 24/7 toll-free line IMMEDIATELY on 080097000010,” he said.
He called on Nigerians to avoid self-medication, while stating that travelers to China and other affected countries, strongly advised them that all non-essential travel to countries with ongoing local transmission should be postponed, until the outbreak is contained.
“Travelers from Nigeria to China and other affected countries are advised to avoid contact with sick people,” he emphasised.
He also urged health workers to maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19.
He, however advised Health officials to call 07032864444 for sample transportation and related advice if they have a case that fits the national case definition.
For schools and busineses, he said that the current situation in the country does not warrant a shutdown of daily activities.
If there was sustained community transmission in Nigeria, various additional measures may be instituted.
“For now; schools are advised to circulate NCDC’s public health advisory and related materials on COVID-19 to all staff, students and parents.
“Businesses are advised to circulate NCDC’s public health advisory and related materials on COVID-19 to all employees, clients and visitors.
“Encourage sick employees and students to stay at home if they are unwell. Ensure routine cleaning of high contact areas such as toilets, door handles, telephones, etc.
“Provide facilities and emphasise the importance of hand washing,” he advised.
Ihekweazu listed countries with ongoing transmission as at Feb. 28, 2020, as China, Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan.
NAN also reports that COVID-19 appears to cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
From current evidence about 98 persons out of 100 persons with the disease will recover.
In about 10 – 15 per cent of cases, it will cause a severe illness. It appears that death is not a common outcome and occurs mostly in elderly patients with underlying health issues.
NAN recalls that currently, four laboratories in Nigeria can diagnose COVID-19.
In addition to the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, this includes the Virology Laboratory of Lagos University Teaching Hospital; Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital and African Centre for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in Ede, Osun State.
There is no specific treatment yet for COVID-19. However, many of the symptoms can be treated.
Therefore, treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition. Supportive care for infected persons can be highly effective.