By Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta and Segun James
The Ogun State Government on Friday confirmed that the Italian infected by the Coronavirus visited Ewekoro, an industrial town in the state.
Addressing a press conference at the Oke-Mosan Governor’s Office in Abeokuta, the state’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, said the Italian who was infected with the Coronavirus disease came to Ewekoro from Lagos and had a short stay before returning to Lagos for medical attention.
He however dismissed speculations that many people had contracted the deadly virus in the state, insisting that Italian visit was brief.
THISDAY investigations revealed that the Italian is a consultant to a company in the locality.
The Health Commissioner said, “The state government has quarantined the location visited by the Italian in Ewekoro and so, Ogun residents should not panic.”
She, however, listed the symptoms of the Coronavirus disease to include illnesses such as the common cold, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
She advised anyone with the symptoms to go to the general hospital, as against visiting a private hospital or a herbal home, to enable the government track any patient identified with the disease.
Coker also advised members of the public “to keep at least five meters away from anyone found with cold or fever.”
She said the Ogun State Government already has an Infectious Centre at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, for anyone diagnosed with the Coronavirus disease, but noted that the infected Italian is currently being treated at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Yaba, Lagos.
She urged members of the public in the state to call 0818897893 or 08188978393 to report any health emergency.
Meanwhile, one of Nigeria’s leading pharmacists, Prof (Mrs) Peace Chinedu-Babalola, has warned that precautionary method was most desired in keeping the widespread coronavirus away from Nigeria, noting that it could cost the federal government at least $2 billion (about N700 billion) to evolve any new medicine.
She gave the advice in Abeokuta while speaking with THISDAY, on the heels of her return from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she was presented with the Kwame Nkruma Award for Scientific Excellence, at an African Union (AU) summit which held in the country.
Chinedu-Babalola, who is the Vice-Chancellor of Chrisland University, Owode-Abeokuta, said finding cure for the coronavirus, which is the latest epidemic that has wiped off thousands of souls, especially in China, is capital intensive.
While commending the federal government for promising to release N36 million to aid research into killer diseases, she, however observed that in the face of lean resources, the government and the citizenry must take utmost precautions to prevent the disease from spreading to the country.
“This is because an equipment needed to embark on research into diseases such as Ebola Virus, Lassa fever and coronavirus could cost as much as N36 million,” she said.
The don, who is the first female professor of Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan, also said, “When it comes to epidemics, Nigerians know how to take precautions. There is awareness in the country and people are taking their personal precautions.
“In terms of government input, government is doing its best. At the various airports, the government has set up various processes to detect the virus. Government is checking those who are coming into the country at the various ports of entries.”
But she said a lot still needed to be done in terms of drug discovery.
“In terms of drugs discovery, that is another cup of tea. For you to discover drugs and vaccines is not bread and butter. Many times, researches have been going on for years. To produce one medicine, it can take us 10 to 15 years. Although, we now have processes that can reduce drug discovery time.
“For us to discover these things, we need to empower research centres. Nigeria needs to inject money to ensure that scientists are working round the clock, testing different viruses so that if one comes up, we can easily detect it, to start with.
“But we should go beyond detection; as a pharmaceutical scientist, when you study the genetics of a disease, when you study the properties of a particular disease or disease agent, we should use it and target medicines, and molecules that can also kill it or cure it.
“We should go beyond diagnoses, we should also empower centres to be able to discover, design and develop drugs. These things take time.
“It will cost about 2 billion dollars to develop one medicine, so Nigeria needs to think seriously about this.”