Two new developments have taken place since the last briefing in Abuja on the coronavirus situation in Nigeria.
The first is that a team of researchers from various institutions in Nigeria, including scientists from the Centre for Human and Zoology Virology in LUTH, African Centre for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in Redeemers University and the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Lagos, combined their efforts to successfully perform the genome sequencing of the coronavirus strain that the index case brought to Nigeria and proved it to be a match with the virus circulating in Italy and Wuhan. This was coordinated by the Lagos State Ministry of Health and NCDC. It is the first time the sequencing of this virus has been performed in Africa. The result has been shared with International Authorities and the Director-General of the World Health Organization has extended congratulations to Nigerian scientists for this achievement.
The other development is that contact tracing and monitoring in respect of the coronavirus index case presently receiving treatment in Lagos, has been diligently and conscientiously pursued since 27 February when the case was first diagnosed. As you know, 40 persons in Ogun and 20 in Lagos are under isolation and have remained free of any symptoms since. Nevertheless, the Federal Ministry of Health, following best practice, decided to test these persons for possible presence of coronavirus in their systems. On 8th March 2020, scientists confirmed the presence of coronavirus in one of the contacts. It is my duty, therefore, to announce a new case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Nigeria The newly confirmed case is an Ogun State contact of the index case, but he has no significant clinical symptoms. This brings the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria today to two.
Since the beginning of the outbreak in China and subsequent spread to other countries, one of the important response strategies at the containment stage, has been to identify all contacts, ensure their strict isolation and to follow up daily with checks for any symptoms of the disease. Following recent experience from other countries and evidence from newly published studies on non-symptomatic infections, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control NCDC advised that samples should be taken from all contacts of the Index case for testing. It is in this process that this new case was detected.
I repeat that the newly confirmed case in Nigeria is not a new importation, but a contact of the Index case, who has since been in isolation and was under clinical follow-up. He presently does not have any clinical symptoms, is comfortable and in care at Infectious Disease Hospital, Lagos.
Recent studies in China have shown that increased surveillance, self-isolation and in particular, contact tracing does reduce the risk of spread because further opportunities for transmission of the virus by the infected patient in the community are limited.
All other contacts of the index case in Ogun and Lagos will remain in isolation and testing will be carried out on those not yet tested, including some in other states.
On the case reported in the US of Nigerian origin, we are in touch with colleagues at the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and here in Abuja. The case visited Lagos in February 2020. However, given the timelines between the time, he was in Nigeria briefly and when he became ill, the likelihood that he was infected in Lagos is very low.
The Federal Ministry of Health, and Lagos and Ogun States Health Ministries assure citizens of our commitment to do all needed to control the spread of this outbreak. Since the first case was confirmed in Nigeria on the 27th of February 2020, the National Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) in Abuja, continues to work closely with Lagos and Ogun State EOCs to coordinate response activities.
I again strongly advise against spreading misinformation to cause fear and panic. The Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC will continue to provide prompt and reliable updates and initiate all measures required to protect our people.
A globally emerging lesson here is that some people who contracted COVID-19 appear to experience zero or only mild illness and will recover; however, other patients develop more severe symptoms, especially if they have other underlying illnesses, or are weakened by old age. I urge Nigerians to take care of their health and protect others by continuing to do the following:
• Regularly and thoroughly wash hands with soap & water for at least 30 seconds, if not possible use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Maintain at least 2 meters (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing repeatedly.
• Be sure you and people around you follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning, to cover the mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief if coughing or sneezing and disposing of used tissue immediately. Alternatively, use your bent elbow when you cough or sneeze, when no tissue is available.
• Do not mingle with people or congregate, but instead stay at home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough, sneezing, or difficulty in breathing.
• Please call NCDC toll-free number which is available 24/7 for guidance- 080097000010.
• Do not engage in lengthy self-medication
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 through official channels including Lagos State Ministry of Health, Ogun State Ministry of Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Federal Ministry of Health.
Thank you for your attention.
Dr. Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire
Honorable Minister of Health