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Nigeria acquires reagents for detection of coronavirus

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) says Nigeria has obtained reagents needed for testing and detection of coronavirus.

Dr. Osagie Ehanire
Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Health Minister

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this to State House correspondents after FEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

“Since about eight days ago, we obtained the reagents necessary; we have the machines; they are called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines which we have here for molecular diagnostics; but we didn’t have the reagents.

“Because for every pathogen, you have a specific pathogen that you will use to detect it and that one for coronavirus being a new disease was not very much available, but we acquired it about eight days ago.

“And now three laboratories in Nigeria can test coronavirus and in fact, they have tested two cases already which were negative – Lagos, Abuja and Irrua.

“Irrua, as you know is Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence for this Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers which is the category to which coronavirus and Lassa fever belong particularly.’’

On why the virus had not been reported in Africa, he said that for a disease to enter a place, somebody or something must carry it.

He said that a person could bring a disease while an animal might carry it as in the case of mosquitoes for malaria and rats for Lassa fever.

“As far as coronavirus is concerned, it is human to human transmission; maybe we have been lucky that no person carrying the virus has entered our country and none has come here undetected.

“And we are particularly happy that the Chinese government is conducting what is called exit screening.

“They not only screen those are entering their country, they screen those who are leaving; so that if they, themselves see any person who has any sign of being sick or having coronavirus, they will restrain that person from travelling.

“This is helpful to other countries; so that you reduce the risk of anybody just coming here like that,’’ he said.

He said that he updated the council on the state of preparedness for the trending problem of coronavirus and also the endemic Lassa fever in Nigeria.

Enahire said that the frontline was the port health services while the second line of defence was the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control.

He said that the level of preparedness at international airports which were the main points of entry into the country – Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano was high.

“And also the fact that all passengers arriving Nigeria are screened by passive camera and it takes your temperature; we look at your travel history to be able to find out where you are coming from and risk you could be carrying.

“Everybody who is coming from that area is given a form to fill; the form contains a number and we also take their numbers; they contact us to let them know if within 14 days of the incubation period, they have any symptoms or not.

“If we don’t hear from them, we call them to find out if they are okay within those 14 days; it is instructive to note that there is no case of corona virus in Nigeria and there is no case in fact reported in Africa.’’

On containing Lassa fever, he said that there had been quite a few incidents that had taken place since 2020 began.

Enahire said that the treatment and reporting had also improved while the fatality rate had dropped to 15 per cent from 30 per cent a couple of years ago.

The minister said that samples had been taken from water in Benue for laboratory analysis in order to detect the cause of strange illness that had taken some lives in Benue State.

Found in Wahum in China, Coronavirus has spread to the US, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and the Philippines, among others. Itis a new strain of virus that has not been previously identified in humans.

By Chijioke Okoronkwo

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