In response to the Novel Coronavirus originating from China, the federal government has placed the Port Health Services Unit of the Ministry of Health in Nigeria on alert and has heightened screening measures at the points of entry which include airports and ground transport stations.
According to an advisory issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Wednesday, travellers from Wuhan in China 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 feel ill after a trip to Wuhan.
Also, in China, exit screening measures have been enhanced for travellers from Wuhan city at the Points of Entry (PoE) (airports and ground transport stations) since the 14th of January 2020.
The NCDC advised Nigerians travelling to China to avoid contact with sick people, dead or alive animals and animal markets while urging Nigerians in the country to remain calm.
The centre said it is currently coordinating a multi-sectoral technical group that is assessing and managing the risk of importation to Nigeria and is in close communication with the World Health Organization (WHO) who is closely monitoring the situation globally.
The first case of a novel coronavirus (2019nCoV) strain was confirmed in China on the 7th of January 2020. According to preliminary investigations, most patients either visited or worked in the Huanan Seafood wholesale market, Wuhan city.
As at the 20th of January 2020, 278 laboratory-confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV infection including six deaths had been reported to WHO globally since the first case was reported on the 31st of December 2019.
As at the 21st of January, five cases had been confirmed in four other countries: Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States of America, all with a travel history to China.
The new virus appears to cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms like cough, cough and breathing difficulties. From current evidence, it appears that death is a rare outcome, mostly in patients with underlying illness.
The NCDC noted that there is no specific treatment for disease caused by the novel coronavirus yet. However, many of the symptoms can be treated. Therefore, treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition.
To reduce the risk of spread of coronavirus, the centre advised members of the public to “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
“Healthcare workers are always advised to observe standard infection prevention and control measures when attending to patients and take a travel history.
As the situation is evolving, this advisory will be updated as more information becomes available.”
The Federal Ministry of Health is however committed to strengthening preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks, the statement said.