Reacting to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and some researchers that Nigeria and eight other African nations were at high risk of importing the Coronavirus, the Minister of Health, Dr. Emmanuel Osagie Ehanire, yesterday declared that Nigeria was not more vulnerable to outbreak of the epidemic that had ravaged a number of nations in South East Asia, admitting though that the cost of doing random testing for the novel disease is very high.
This comes as the Lagos government confirmed the first case of Lassa fever for this year in the state.
The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who made the confirmation yesterday at a press conference in Ikeja, assured residents that the situation was under control, adding that that the state government in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was doing everything possible to control the spread of the ailment.
Ehanire, who was on same page with the commissioner, added that Nigeria was prepared for any eventuality, as the infrastructure and personnel to contain not just Lassa and Coronavirus but most epidemics were available.
WHO and a study published in the journal Nature had said Nigeria and six other Africa countries as well as Egypt, South Africa and Algeria were more susceptible to the disease. The minister told The Guardian yesterday: “Everywhere is vulnerable to Coronavirus. Nigeria is even more prepared than some countries. We are doing our best. There is no change in what we are doing to contain a possible outbreak of Coronavirus in the country.
“The Chinese have given us clinical criteria. We suspect and address anything that looks like Coronavirus because the cost of testing is very high.” On the new development in the nation’s economic capital, he said: “Lagos is one of the most prepared states in Nigeria. So if anybody can match Lassa, it is Lagos. They have the infrastructure, the medics and facilities to contain the virus.”
On the implication of the Lagos news, the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said: “It is just one case. We have more than 500 cases across the nation. There is no implication. It is not Ebola. It is not the first case. It is just the first case in Lagos this year. Nigeria is endemic to Lassa fever. As far as there are rats in the environment.
“Our goal is to remind people to prevent infection.”
The Lagos official however urged the public to maintain adequate personal hygiene and environmental sanitation all times, just as he added that 63 persons had been put under surveillance. He gave out the following emergency operation centre lines – 08023169485, 08033565529 and 08052817243. Besides, deaths from Lassa fever this year have risen to 103 with 2176 suspected cases.
The information was contained in the weekly Epidemiology Report released yesterday by the NCDC. Also yesterday, the Vice Chancellor of Chrisland University, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Prof. Peace Chinedum Babalola, said $2 billion would be needed to detect, diagnose and develop drugs to fight epidemics in Nigeria.
Addressing a press conference in Abeokuta, he urged the Federal Government to increase the funding of the health sector. He added that government must be proactive in fighting deadly diseases in the country.
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