No Nigerian Infected with Coronavirus, Says FG

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Chikwe Ihekweazu

Martins Ifijeh

Despite the spread of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan city in China to at least 13 other countries, including the United States, Australia and France, the federal government has said no Nigerian has been infected by the virus.

Also, China has warned that the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger by the day, hence its decision to put stronger measures in place to safeguard public health.

Speaking exclusively with THISDAY yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said no Nigerian or African has been diagnosed with the virus, adding that the federal government is putting all measures in place to ensure it doesn’t spread to the country.

He said: “Currently, there is no known case of Novel Coronavirus detected in Nigeria. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also assured us that no case of the virus in any African country. However, we are working very hard to be prepared in the event of an outbreak. It is precisely for events like this that NCDC was set up.

“Our Epidemic Information Management Group meets every day to review the situation globally, assess the risks to Nigeria and provide recommendations for action.”

On whether the disease was deadlier than Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), Ihekweazu said based on current reports, the virus has moderate transmissibility and relatively low pathogenicity, adding that most deaths have occurred in patients who are older or have underlying health issues.

“We have advised travellers to Wuhan in China to restrict contact with livestock and livestock produce as well as with ill patients. We are also advising travellers from Wuhan, China with symptoms to report to NCDC on arrival in Nigeria,” he added.

As at yesterday, the outbreak has claimed at least 57 lives with over 2,000 persons confirmed infected, including three cases in the United States and across other countries.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health Commission, China, Ma Xiaowei, has said with the Coronavirus’ ability to spread quickly, the Chinese government has decided to intensify measures to contain the spread, including a nationwide ban on trading in wildlife and the suspension of long-distance buses in the eastern province of Shandong, which has a population of 100 million people.

“Long-distance buses have also been banned from departing from or arriving at Beijing and Shanghai. Restrictions to halt the outbreak of the new Coronavirus in China will be intensified since the virus’s ability to spread appeared to be getting stronger.

“The transmissibility shows signs of increasing and the ‘walking source of infection’ (where patients have few signs of disease) has made it difficult to control and prevent the disease,” he said.

There are concerns that screening efforts may not identify all persons who carry the virus. An article published in the Lancet, based on a family who had recently visited Wuhan, suggested it was possible to have the Wuhan virus while not experiencing any symptoms. It is not clear whether patients who are asymptomatic can also transmit the disease.