Nigeria’s first ‘community spread’ questions contact tracing system
Of the four new cases of coronavirus discovered on Thursday, one of them has never had traveled outside the country, unveiling the scariest part of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where the become infected, says the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC).
In terms of transmission, it means that if you have COVID-19, it is two to three people you’re going to infect according to Tracie Collins, dean of College of Population and Health in the United States in an interview with a local paper.
Collins said that it is not time to panic but to take steps that can help prevent the spread including washing hands, sneezing into tissues and wiping down surfaces.
Health officials warn that community spread elevates the need for more precautions like social distancing. The droplets that someone creates when he sneezes or coughs can remain in the air and infect someone else for 30 minutes experts warn. increasing the risk for community spread.
Nigeria’s response to the Coronavirus threat has largely been reactive as suspected cases have been patients who observed symptoms and presented themselves for evaluation.
Then government officials upon the confirmation of an infection after testing organizes a press conference to inform Nigerians. After repeated counsel, the Federal Government only on Wednesday agreed to ban international travel from 13 countries with high infection rates.
It remains to be seen if the small numbers being reported are not due to the incubation period of the disease yet to run its course.
This new set of cases may indicate that health officials are having a difficult time tracing contacts of individuals who tested positive for Coronavirus after returning from the country.
“Contact tracing is one of the major problems the country is going to have,” warns Francis Faduyile, president of Nigerian Medical Association, while answering questions on a programme on Channels Television on Thursday morning.
According to information from the Ministry of Health, officials have only been able to trace a third of those who were on the initial Turkish flight to Nigeria where the index patient was discovered.
Contact tracing is the process of identifying, accessing and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent onward transmission. During the Ebola epidemic of 2014, contact tracing was helpful for rapid identification of people at the onset of symptoms and promptly isolating them.
According to the WHO, experience from previous Ebola crises demonstrated contact tracing has posed serious challenge challenges.
“Factors including wide geographical expanse of the EVD outbreak (involving urban and rural areas), insufficient resources, human financial and logistics, community resistance and to some extent limited access to affected communities,” according to a WHO study.
Health officials engaging in contact tracing need to be skilled in assessment of the COVID-19 symptoms, interviewing techniques and counseling. It is not clear how much efforts have been in place since the last Ebola outbreak to reskill officials.
Contact tracing in Nigeria is further beset by familiar challenges with inadequate data, dishonest documentation, and fear of stigmatization which may prompt some to keep their symptoms quiet and increase the likelihood of the diseases spreading.
The state government says that over 1500 persons are being tracked to identify their closeness to infected people.
This situation now demands an urgent response similar to what is seen in Western Countries where schools, malls, bars, gyms have had to be closed for a period of time to contain the virus.
The United States prevaricated when the first community spread case was unraveled with government officials calling experts alarmists. Within the days the disease grew in geometric proportions and now there are over 157 deaths and about 10,000 infections.
Faduyile reassured that a diagnosis of the Coronavirus does not translate to a death sentence considering that case-fatality ratio is between 2 and 4 percent indicating that those infected have a higher chance of recovering from the virus than it killing them.