The outbreak of the newly and deadly viruses called coronavirus is no longer news to many us. According to World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from just mere cough to a very serious and deadly diseases such as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
Coronavirus was discovered through several cases of pneumonia in the Wuhan city, Hubei Province of China on 31st December, 2019. The WHO has declared a global health emergency over coronaviruse which has killed over 200 people in China and about 10,000 cases have been reported.
These viruses are fast spreading and has affected about 18 other countries including United States of America who also reported over 9,000 cases. The figures keep growing day by day and more countries are getting affected.
Just today, A 44-years old chines man visiting Philippines died in the country as a result of contacting coronvirus from China and this made the first death reported out China. The WHO has made it very clear that no vaccine is currently available against Coronavirus.
So, how prepared is Nigeria?
Although, no case of Coronavirus is reported in any part of Africa yet, but from the rate at which Coronavirus is spreading to countries, should Nigeria and Nigerians stay indifferently and pay deaf ears? Should we wait till our country is affected and someone gets killed before we begin to act? Of course not. I want to believe we have learnt lesson from how Ebola entered Nigeria in 2014?
It is a known fact that many African countries including Nigeria do not have the required laboratory capacity to respond to any infectious diseases like this Coronavirus, it very unfortunate that many of the disease surveillance systems are weak and country lacks diagnostic capacity, so it going to prove difficult to identify Coronavirus and controlling the outbreak in Nigeria. This is because most of its symptoms are normal symptoms like respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties that we see everyday.
While I will make the following suggestions that the government should be vigilant, ensure that there exist an active screening at airports, seaports and all our borders (though this might be ineffective and insufficient). The government must also delay travelling of citizens from Nigeria to any affected counties, if possible to countries near affected counties. Suspend visas for visitors from China and blocking travel to the country. We as Nigerians must also be vigilant, engage ourselves in regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
– Abubakar Yahaya Hamza writes from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.