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Coronary virus: doubts expressed over non-casualty containment

There is quite an air of confidence that the national health emergency apparatus can deliver again in case the coronavirus is imported into the country, given the resounding success with which Nigeria contained what would have resulted in an endemic spread of the Ebola Virus in 2014, y. But concerns as to whether the apparatus can deliver no-casualty containment are being nursed.

“Should there be an outbreak, the important thing is to locate it and contain it there and I think we have the expertise to be able to do that,” a source at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, said when asked if Nigeria could aim higher to achieve containment without deaths.

“Depending on the time taken to track, people can die actually. If the case is found now, the first thing is to look around the immediate vicinity of any other person that could have been in contact. It’s important to be prepared.”

In the wake of the outbreak of the coronary virus that is fast sweeping through continents from China, the source, health management agencies including experts in public health have reminded Nigerians of the aggressive control of Ebola, citing it as an example of the country’s readiness to combat the case at hand.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has asked people to stay calm as it is coordinating multiple sectors for assessing and managing the risk of importation. The Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health has amplified screening measures at the points of entry including airports and ground transport stations. The centre is equally in close communication with the World Health Organisation (WHO) monitoring team.

Similar to Ebola response, provisions have been made for temperature checks, information notifications, masks to passengers with fever and guiding of symptomatic passengers to health facilities for further tests, the NCDC said.

During the emergency response for Ebola, a top-notch virology laboratory, affiliated with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital quickly rose to the occasion to promptly diagnose case of Ebola virus disease. Isolation facilities were built in Lagos and Port-Harcourt as designated Ebola treatment facilities. Existing infrastructures for polio eradication were repurposed to support the Ebola response, putting GPS systems to work for real-time contact tracing and daily mapping of transmission chains. It was also a good time for hand sanitizer companies as many public spaces, from offices to churches, and hospitals were awash with varying products.

However, by the time WHO declared Nigeria free of Ebola virus transmission on 20 October, 2014, the number of cases at 19 and seven of them had resulted in death. After an infected Patrick Sawyer landed in Lagos, the protocol officer who escorted him died of Ebola. Four of nine infected doctors and nurses died as a result of poor precaution. Again, upon landing in Port-Harcourt, a doctor who treated Sawyer developed symptoms and died.

Hopes are indeed high about the government’s readiness claims to attack the coronavirus but the same optimism is not wholly shared about the depth of strength, especially for preventing the first responders at the airport and in the hospital from infection.

Debo Odulana, a medical doctor and founder of Doctoora, a platform linking health experts to practising equipment perceives the fear is less about being able to contain it and more about resources allocated to monitoring.

“What I think they can do which they have started doing is to do a lot of serious monitoring at the points of entry. The monitoring should heavily focus on tracking where each traveller is coming from. The other thing they can do is to just completely say no, we are not taking flights from certain places which I’m sure they wouldn’t do,” he said.

The coronavirus which has killed 81 people in China has the potential to spread before symptoms show up, Chinese health authorities said in a monitored report.

Coronaviruses are transmitted from animals and people and from person to person, usually after a close contact with an infected patient, for example, in a household or health care setting, the NCDC says.

Protection

The centre has advised members of the public to take note of regular hand washing with soap and covering of mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing or coughing.

Other precautions include avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. People should avoid self-medication and report to the nearest health facility when symptoms are experienced.

Healthcare workers on their part should observe standard infection prevention and control measures when attending to patients and take a travel history.

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