NIDS Statement on the novel coronavirus- now ‘COVID 19’

The NIDS Statement on the Novel Coronavirus (2019 nCov)- now COVID-19

The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 nCov) remains a public health threat for many countries across the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently officially named the virus ‘COVID 2019’. The “CO” stands for “corona”, “VI” for “virus” and “D” for “disease”, while “19” was for the year, as the outbreak was first identified on December 31.

As at 11th February 2020, 25 countries have reported one or more confirmed cases, with a total of 43103  confirmed cases (395 outside China) and  1018 deaths (1 outside China) according to the WHO.  There have been no confirmed case in the African continent.

The WHO has declared the epidemic a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and has stepped up emergency preparedness measures in 13 high risk African countries including Nigeria.

The Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre of Disease Control (NCDC), is strengthening its preparedness to respond to a possible importation of the virus to the country. The Ports Health Services has heightened screening at the ports of entry for all travelers from China and the Federal Government has issued a travel advisory to her citizens urging them to limit travel to China except unavoidable. Travelers returning to Nigeria from China have been advised to self-quarantine (stay away from public) for at least two weeks after their arrival into the country. Returnees who develop symptoms of fever and cough within two weeks of arrival from China are advised to report to public health authorities (NCDC and Ministries of Health).

The Federal Government, through the NCDC, has now developed in-country capacity to diagnose the 2019 nCov. The NCDC has since released a surveillance case definition for the new coronavirus and has called on healthcare workers and other concerned persons who suspect the new coronavirus to call the NCDC on 07032864444 for sample collection and testing.

As one of largest megacity in Africa, a commercial hub and a city with one of highest population density in the world, Lagos state is of interest to the WHO concerning the spread of the new coronavirus. The Lagos State government has since set up a high-powered incident command centre to coordinate and enhance the State’s preparedness to the threat of 2019 nCov.

The NIDS acknowledges and commends the proactive response by the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the NCDC and other agencies,  as well as the Lagos State government, especially in the prompt development of in-country capacity to test and diagnose the 2019 nCov and the upgrade of existing infectious disease infrastructure, among other public health interventions.

The Nigerian Infectious Diseases Society (NIDS) calls on general public to avoid misinformation and to always confirm information about the coronavirus outbreak and other epidemics from authentic sources such as the NCDC and other government agencies. The general public is advised to always maintain personal hygiene: wash your hands frequently with soap and water and observe cough etiquette and other basic preventive measures.

Healthcare workers are advised to be on the alert and to treat every patient with respiratory symptoms with a high index of suspicion. Travel history should be incorporated into routine history taking.  Healthcare workers must observe strict infection and control practices when caring for all patients. The NCDC and state health authorities should immediately be notified if any patient fits the NCDC case definition of new coronavirus.

The NIDS calls on the Federal and State Governments, and relevant partners to improve funding and support for epidemic preparedness and response, especially in the provision of diagnostic laboratory facilities and standard isolation wards across all the states of the Federation. The society will continue to work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the people of Nigeria are safe and protected from all infectious disease threats, including the new coronavirus.