By Abujah Racheal
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has released the second public health advisory on the novel coronavirus 2019 (nCoV), to Nigerians.
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of NCDC, made the release available to the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN), on Friday in Abuja.
“This is a new disease; new information emerge every day. This advisory will be updated as new information and research on the virus and its impact on populations become available.
“The Emergency Committee reconvened by the WHO Director-General on January 30, 2020 declared the novel coronavirus 2019 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
“This is to halt the spread of the virus outside China, stop person-to-person transmission and provide a global coordinated effort to enhance preparedness in other regions of the world that may need additional support.
“It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country and preparedness is critical,” he stated.
The NCDC boss said that the Nigerian government was closely monitoring the ongoing novel coronavirus 2019 outbreak which originated in Wuhan, China.
“As at 30th January, it has spread to 18 countries – Japan, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Republic of Singapore, Thailand, United States of America, Australia, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.
“Others include France, Malaysia, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, India and Finland, affecting four continents – Asia, Europe, USA & Australia,” he said.
He disclosed that so far, there were 7,818 confirmed cases with 170 deaths, while fatality rate currently standing at 2.2 per cent.
“But till date, there has been no confirmed case of the novel coronavirus on the African continent,” he said.
He said that NCDC had put in place quick and diverse strategies to prevent importation of cases into country.
“A multi sectorial Coronavirus Preparedness Group has been constituted to carry out regular epidemic intelligence gathering, enhanced surveillance at the points of entry, boost intensive risk communications and strengthen laboratory capacity for testing.
“We have also placed National First Rapid Response Team to highly pathogenic infections on alert, scaling up of Public Health Emergency Operation Centres in states,” he stated.
Ihekweazu said that the Coronavirus Preparedness Group had representatives from Federal Ministry Of Health (FMoH), Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), World Health Organization (WHO), US Centers for Disease Control (US-CDC) and Pro-Health International (PHI).
According to him, “the Public Health England (PHE), and others are working with the NCDC in assessing and managing the risk of importation of the disease to Nigeria, as well as making preparations for early detection and response.
The NCDC boss said that coronaviruses were zoonotic, meaning they were 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.
“Some coronaviruses can be transmitted from person-to-person, usually after close contact with an infected patient, for example, in a household or healthcare setting.
“Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. For this novel coronavirus (nCoV), while most initial transmission appeared to be zoonotic, person- to-person transmission has occurred,” he explained.
According to him, the Chinese Government has extended the Lunar New Year holiday and put in place other measures to dissuade their citizens from traveling out of China, as part of many significant measures to contain the spread of the virus outside China.
Ihekweazu said that there were major travel restrictions in the main affected areas in China and air passengers traveling from Wuhan, China are screened on exit to prevent the exportation of the virus.
This, he said, includes temperature checks combined with the provision of information and masks to passengers.
Passengers without symptoms on departure, but become unwell in transit are encouraged to self-report to the relevant authorities on arrival.
He noted that the Port Health Services unit of the FMOH had heightened screening measures at points of entry.
In addition, he added that at automated thermal screening at points of entry, travelers from China to Nigeria are asked questions upon arrival by the Port Health Services unit, about symptoms of illness, travel history and are advised to contact NCDC if they felt unwell after a trip to Wuhan.
The NCDC boss, however, advised Nigerians to remain calm.
“Travelers from Nigeria to Wuhan, China are advised to avoid contact with sick people, animals alive or dead, and animal markets,” he added.
Speaking on symptoms, Ihekweazu said that the new coronavirus appeared to cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms like cough, fever and breathing difficulties.
“From current evidence, about 98 persons, out of 100 persons with the disease recover, and it appears that death is a rare outcome, mostly in patients with underlying health issues,” he said.
He added that there was no specific treatment yet for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus adding, however, that many of the symptoms could be treated.
“The treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition. In addition, supportive care for infected persons can be highly effective.
“FMOH, through NCDC and its partners, are fully committed to strengthening our preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks. Information will be shared with the public as it becomes available,” he stated.
Ihekweazu noted that Nigerians could reduce the spread of coronavirus if they washed their hands regularly with soap under running water.
“Nigerians should also cover their mouths and noses properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.
“We must also avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
“We must also avoid self-medication, and report to the nearest health facility when one experiences any of the above-mentioned symptoms,” he advised.
He called on healthcare workers to observe standard infection prevention and control measures when attending to patients and take a travel history.
“Travelers from China, who show no symptoms on arrival, but who have a fever and cough within 14 days of arrival in Nigeria, should contact NCDC on 0800-970000-10, ” he stated.
NAN recalls that the Federal Government on Friday formulated inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral preparedness and rapid response strategy against the Coronavirus epidemic.
It also approved N71 million as preventive cost against possible outbreak of the virus and subsequently directed that operators of all ports of entry into the country be on alert and screen all passengers at the seaports, International Airports and land borders.(NAN)