NACA: FG May Deploy HIV Drugs to Treat Coronavirus

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Dr. Gambo Gumel Aliyu

Eromosele Abiodun and Nume Ekeghe

The federal government has said it may as well deploy HIV drug, Kaletra, to treat the Coronavirus in the event that it gets to Nigeria.

Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr. Gambo Gumel Aliyu, stated this yesterday while featuring on The Morning Show, a breakfast programme on Arise Television, the sister broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers.

Aliyu, who said the drug is currently being tried in China, added: “The drug is called Kaletra. It is a combination of two drugs, Lopinavir and Norvir. This drug has been found to be useful in prior cases of MARS, because of that people have been advocating for its use. The Chinese government has started a process to give it a trial, treating patients with the Coronavirus. Data are not yet very much available. We are still monitoring and waiting to find out how patients are responding, and if we find any case here we will deploy such medication to ensure that people are well covered.”

He, however, assured that government agencies have put every measure in place to ensure that the virus is not imported into Nigeria.

“Inter-agency cooperation always exists in case of an outbreak and in the absence of no outbreak, agencies cooperate and share information. The agencies help each other especially in terms of capacity building and also providing expertise where a particular agency is deficient in its ability to address issues.

“But let me say this, for the Coronavirus, I think the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is on top of the situation. The Federal Ministry of Health through the port health unit, Department of Public Health is also doing a great job. They have mounted surveillance units and are monitoring individuals that are coming into this country and they are very careful in accessing individuals and the symptoms they display and where they are coming from. At the moment, this is paying off well as we haven’t seen any case of Coronavirus in Nigeria. The monitoring aspect is going on very well,” he assured.

Aliyu said the most important safety caution at the moment was to ensure that people who visited China should be thoroughly quarantined and “if people don’t have anything critical they should not travel at the moment and those who have travelled there should not come over to Nigeria until the outbreak is over. This is very important because the only source we can think of now of this virus is somebody carrying it from somewhere and coming into this country.”

He added that there has been no infection in Africa and South America because the virus could not survive in both climates.

“The best thing for now is to take precautionary measures to ensure that the virus is not imported here. The virus has not been seen in humans prior to this time. Generally, the Coronavirus is evidently common among animals not humans. But occasionally, they can manifest in humans like SARS or MERS, which is more lethal than the Coronavirus.

“The MERS and SARS were more lethal because MERS has 35 per cent mortality rate, while SARS has 10 per cent mortality rate. The Coronavirus has about 20 per cent mortality rate and I doubt if there is anything like conspiracy theory, because sometimes those things do happen. Remember, if it were conspiracy theory, it will not have emanated from a food market in China where life animals as well as slaughtered animals are sold. Individuals that were identified earlier were individuals associated with or found to have visited that market. For now there is no evidence to say that it may be used as weapons of mass destruction or any like that,” NACA chief said.

The director-general said anyone in close contact with an infected person or stay where people are packed in one place is prone to contacting the virus.