Following the recent outbreak of novel coronavirus (nCoV) in Wuhan Province of China, the Federal Government has reportedly intensified efforts to ensure that the dreaded disease, which has claimed so many lives in China and some other countries, is not imported into the country. The government has also put measures in place to curtail the spread of the disease if it enters the country.
Apart from reactivating the country’s disease surveillance systems, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has equally established a ‘coronavirus preparedness group’ that includes representatives from Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health and other stakeholders. Screening, which includes temperature checks, specific questions on known symptoms of the new disease and travel history, has been heightened at all points of entry, especially for passengers coming from China.
Besides, the coronavirus preparedness group meets on a daily basis to review the situation globally, assess the risk of spread as well as improve on the country’s preparedness based on new findings and insights on the disease. The capacity of the National Reference Laboratory has been strengthened to provide molecular diagnosis for all epidemic prone diseases.
Meanwhile, the NDCD has, according to reports, supported 22 states to establish emergency operations centres. At the same time, the Federal Government is monitoring five Nigerian airports to check the deadly coronavirus. It has also set up a multisectoral committee to scale up surveillance and vigilance to detect suspicious cases of the disease in a bid to contain it at all entry points.
According to the Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, “bearing in mind that air travellers, rather than land border crossers, are more likely carriers of this type of virus, attention will focus largely on our five international airports.” Considering the possibility of importation of the coronavirus to Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health is working with relevant ministries and agencies to strengthen surveillance, preparedness and response to public health emergencies at our various points of entry,” the minister said.
Interestingly, the NDCD has enjoined Nigerians to remain calm and urged travellers from Nigeria to Wuhan, China, to avoid contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead) as well as animal markets. Beyond Wuhan, cases have been confirmed in other Chinese cities such as Guangdong, Beijing and Shanghai. The disease has been confirmed in many countries including Hong Kong, Thailand, Macau, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Republic of Korea, the United States of America, all with a travel history to China. While many of the initial cases were thought to have contracted the virus through animal to human, human to human transmission has also been established.
After much deliberation, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the deadly coronavirus outbreak as a global health emergency. The Chinese government has classified the outbreak in the same category as the SARS epidemic. Therefore, there is need for compulsory isolation for those diagnosed with the illness. About 170 people have reportedly died of the disease while 8,000 cases have been reported worldwide.
According to medical experts, Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronovaris (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans and now first seen in Wuhan, China. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.
Some investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to human. Also, several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. The disease is mainly transmitted from animal to human. It is normally spread between an infected person to others via the air (from viral particles from a cough or sneeze); close personal contact (touching or shaking hands); an object or surface with viral particles on it.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. At present, there is no specific antiviral treatment for the novel coronavirus. People infected with the disease should receive supportive care to help alleviate symptoms. Preventive measures include regular washing of hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
We commend the Federal Government’s measures to ensure that the disease is not imported into the country. But we call for more public enlightenment on the disease, mode of transmission and preventive measures. We enjoin Nigerians to avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. They should also avoid travel for now to affected areas.