Coronavirus: We’re on the alert, no cause for alarm – NCDC assures Nigerians
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has advised Nigerians to remain calm as the agency was on the alert for the mysterious Chinese coronavirus disease.
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, NCDC Director-General, gave the advice in a public health advisory on Wednesday in Abuja.
The virus, a large group of viruses that are common among animals, were first identified by Chinese researchers with the pathogen behind a mysterious illness that had sickened 59 people in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in Central China.
Ihekweazu said the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) through NCDC and its partners were fully committed to strengthening the country’s preparedness and response to infectious disease.
The NCDC boss said Nigeria was currently coordinating a multi-sectoral technical group that would assess and manage the risk of the virus’ importation to the country.
“NCDC is in close communication with the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is closely monitoring the situation globally. WHO is in direct communication with the Government of China and other affected countries, and has released technical and travel guidance,” Ihekweazu said.
He further said the Port Health Services Unit of the FMoH was alerted and had heightened screening measures at the points of entry.
According to him, in China, exit screening measures have been enhanced for travelers from Wuhan city at the Points of Entry (PoE) (airports and ground transport stations) since Jan. 14.
“This includes temperature checks, combined with provision of information and masks to passengers with fever, as well as directing symptomatic passengers to health facilities for follow up,” he said.
Ihekeazu, therefore, advised that travelers from Nigeria to Wuhan, China, should avoid contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead), and animal markets.
“Travelers from Wuhan to Nigeria, may be asked questions upon arrival by the Port Health Services unit at points of entry about symptoms of illness and travel history, and are advised to report immediately to NCDC, if they fell ill after a trip to Wuhan,” he said.
Ihekweazu further said that WHO had convened its Emergency Committee to determine whether the outbreak should be declared a Public Health Event of International Concern (PHEIC).
He explained that detailed information would be shared with the public as it became available.
Speaking on the virus’ symptoms, Ihekweazu said the virus could make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to common cold.
He also said the symptoms included runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly headache and fever, which could last for a couple of days.
“For those with weak immune system, the elderly and the very young, there is a chance of the virus causing a lower, and much more serious, respiratory tract illness like a pneumonia or bronchitis.
“There are a handful of human coronaviruses that are known to be deadly,” he said.
Speaking of the treatment, Ihekweazu said there was no specific treatment for disease caused by the novel coronavirus yet.
He, however, said many of the symptoms could be treated, adding that treatment must be based on the patient’s clinical condition.
“In addition, supportive care for infected persons could be highly effective,” he said.
The NCDC boss also advised Nigerians to protect themselves to reduce the risk of and contacting and spreading coronavirus.
“Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water, cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing”.
“You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms,” he said.
He urged healthcare workers to always observe standard infection prevention and control measures when attending to patients and take a travel history.
Recall that the Chinese’s mystery coronavirus has grown dramatically to more than 400 cases and a number of cases confirmed in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and South Korea.
The nine people who died from the illness were from Hubei, a Chinese province with Wuhan as capital.(NAN)