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Coronavirus spreads across the world and hits the Nigerian megacity of Lagos

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Friday, 28 February 2020 15:13

A health worker checks the temperature of a traveller as part of the coronavirus screening procedure at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra
A health worker checks the temperature of a traveller January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko - RC2HQE9QM0PQ

Coronavirus has been confirmed in Lagos, Nigeria. The first patient is an Italian who was returning to the country from Milan.

Nigeria confirmed its first case of Coronavirus yesterday, 27 February. The case was not detected at the airport, as the patient did not show any symptoms upon landing.

The Italian man who arrived from Milan on the evening of 24 February had travelled through Lagos before he became ill and went to the hospital.

The diagnosis was confirmed at the virology lab at Lagos University Teaching Hospital. The patient is clinically stable and being cared for at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba.

Mounting a response

The authorities are now working to ‘meet and observe’ all those who were on the flight with him.

They are trying to identify all the people he met and the places he visited in Lagos, which will prove difficult in the city of more than 20 million people.

Nigeria’s health ministry is also anxious to curb nationwide panic, saying: “Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus Africa map: Which countries are most at risk?

Lessons from the Ebola response

Global health organisations commended Nigeria for its strong and rapid response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

On 20 July 2014, a man carrying the disease travelled from Liberia to Lagos. Patrick Sawyer was not diagnosed with Ebola for three days, during which time nine health care workers were infected.

However, once the diagnosis was confirmed, the health ministry worked with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s office in Nigeria to declare an Ebola emergency and created the facilities to isolate exposed people during the requisite 21-day monitoring period.

It also put an Incident Management System in place to coordinate responses. The centralised response system was vital in controlling the outbreak.

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The complete clinical picture of the Coronavirus is yet not known. The cases have ranged from mild to severe, with instances of its leading to pneumonia, multiple organ failure and even death.

The potential public health risk is high, but individual risk depends on exposure and underlying health problems. However, with more than 2,800 people dead and over 82,000 cases of infection reported globally, it has now become a global health emergency.

Signs of infection

Signs of infection include fevers, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. However, although most infected people show symptoms within five to six days, some can be asymptomatic.

Gboyega Akosile, chief press secretary for Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, tweeted: “Dear Lagosians, the need to maintain utmost hygiene is now, as Lagos records first COVID-19 case.”

The governor held a press briefing this morning, and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has deployed its Rapid Response Teams to support the Lagos State government.

The bottom line: The Nigerian government hopes to mirror its response to the Ebola outbreak here, to stop the virus spreading uncontrollably in the country of more than 200 million people.

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