Amid numerous precautionary measures canvassed to contain the dreaded corona virus, the Honourable Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources in Akwa Ibom State, Dr. (Barr.) Ekong Sampson, has called on the people of the state to pay serious attention to personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness, even as the state government is set to clamp down on illegal felling of trees in city centres.
According to research records, Coronaviruses belong to the Coronaviridae family in the Nidovirales order. Corona represents crown-like spikes on the outer surface of the virus; thus, it was named as a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are minute in size (65–125 nm in diameter) and contain a single-stranded RNA as a nucleic material, size ranging from 26 to 32kbs in length. The sub-groups of coronaviruses family are alpha (α), beta (β), gamma (γ) and delta (δ) coronavirus.
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), H5N1 influenza A, H1N1 2009 and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) cause acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which leads to pulmonary failure and result in fatality.
These viruses were thought to infect only animals until the world witnessed a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak caused by SARS-CoV, in 2002 in Guangdong, China. Only a decade later, another pathogenic coronavirus, known as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) caused an endemic in Middle Eastern countries.
When, at the end of 2019, Wuhan, an emerging business nucleus of China, began to experience an outbreak of a novel coronavirus that killed more than one thousand, eight hundred individuals and infected over seventy thousand others within the first fifty days of the epidemic, the rest of the world, moreso African nations, reckoned it as a myth in a far-away land! The virus was reported to be a member of the β group of coronaviruses, and was named as Wuhan coronavirus or 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) by the Chinese researchers.
The virus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease as COVID-19, as named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV), the novel corona virus (since 2019) has infected over five million people out of which more than four hundred thousand have died across the globe till date of this writing. This is the stark reality about the deadly virus disease today.
FIRST CASE OF CORONA VIRUS DISEASE CONFIRMED IN NIGERIA
On Friday, February 28, 2020, the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case in Lagos State, Nigeria. The case, which was confirmed on the 27th of February 2020, was the first case to be reported in Nigeria since the beginning of the outbreak in China in January 2020.
The case, as was widely reported, was an Italian citizen who was working in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos, Nigeria on February 25, 2020. He was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. The patient who was said to be clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, was being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.
SHUTTING DOWN OF LAFARGE, A CEMENT MANUFACTURING COMPANY IN EWEKORO, OGUN STATE.
On the heels of the first ever index case confirmation in Nigeria, an employee of the company, Lafarge (a cement manufacturing company where the Italian was working), who drove an Italian infected with Coronavirus with an ambulance to Lagos for medical attention, was said to have also been arrested.
A clinic situated inside the cement factory was also said to have been shut down while staff were locked inside a room after fears grew that the Italian had been in contact with many persons in Ogun State before being rushed to Lagos for medical help.
Media reports had at the time given exclusive details of how the Italian found his way into Nigeria aboard Turkish Airlines on Monday, February 24, 2020 around 9:40pm as against February 25 claimed by the Lagos State Government and and the Federal Government.
The Italian was alleged not to have shown any signs of being infected with the virus at the time of his entry into the country but developed fever and body aches the next day when he visited Lafarge at Ewekoro, Ogun State.
He was thereafter taken to the company’s clinic that evening and was placed under observation while the Ogun State Government was notified of his situation, according to an official report.
The decision to move the Italian to Lagos was soon hatched following the non-existence of a facility to handle his case in Ogun.
Naturally, fears were heightened following the fact that the driver who drove the Italian to Lagos was exposed to him for at least five hours and was not isolated or quarantined but allowed to go home.
As a result of this, he was also exposed to several other persons and heightened the risk of the virus spreading further.
A source at Lafarge, a cement manufacturer in Ogun, was said to have volunteered that, “I am just concerned about the primary contacts.
“The man (driver) is back here now, there are no plans of taking him into isolation.
“The health care providers were not also isolated.
“The driver was allowed to go home, claiming he didn’t break any protocol when he delivered the man.
“The company tried to smuggle the Italian out of Lagos by air by pretending that he had Malaria.
“There are so many persons that had been exposed to the index case and if these people are not found and quarantined, we could be in big trouble.”
The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health, has been strengthening measures to ensure an outbreak in Nigeria is controlled and contained quickly. The multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group, led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has since activated its national Emergency Operations Centre and will work closely with Lagos State Health authorities to respond to this case and implement firm control measures.
“I wish to assure all Nigerians that have we have been beefing up our preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China, and we will use all the resources made available by the government to respond to this case.
“We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he entered Nigeria. Please be reminded that most people who become infected may experience only mild illness and recover easily, but it can be more severe in others, particularly the elderly and persons with other underlying chronic illnesses. All Nigerians should take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families, following the precautions below:
1. Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
2. Maintain at least 1 & half metres (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
3. Persons with persistent cough or sneezing should stay home or keep a social distance, but not mix in crowd.
4. Make sure you and people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or into your sleeve at the bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
5. Stay home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Please call NCDC toll free number which is available day and night, for guidance- 0800-970000-10. Do not engage in self-medication
6. Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 through official channels on TV and Radio, including the Lagos State Ministry of Health, NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health.
Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic. The Federal Ministry of Health, through Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of any outbreak in Nigeria,” announced Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Hon. Minister of Health.
As at the time of filing this article, over 9,000 cases have been confirmed in Nigeria, over 3,000 cases have been discharged and about 300 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory, having carried out 48,544 tests.
AKWA IBOM COVID-19 INDEX CASES
-Dr Otobong Asuquo, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, after recovering from the disease at Ibom Specialty Hospital.
As at April 1, 2020, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 5 cases of the disease in Akwa Ibom State, and Dr Otobong Asuquo, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, was one of the cases.
Dr Asuquo, in his detailed account after recovering from the disease at Ibom Specialist Hospital in Uyo, said he received a call immediately from the state COVID-19 team to get set that an ambulance would be coming to pick him.
Different thoughts went through his mind: his dear wife, children, and when he saw how others in different parts of the world were passing away, he thought his end was near!
At the isolation centre, Dr Asuquo said he enjoyed his stay because of the privacy, the modern facilities, and equipment at the hospital.
“You don’t know what is happening and who is in the next room. Constant water and light, it’s like having the U.S. in Akwa Ibom,” he said in a video chat.
He added that he was surprised to know that all the rooms there are equipped with Television sets (with DSTV) and that there’s free WIFI for browsing the Internet, which made him stay updated and worked on his personal project.
Although he was silent on the treatment he received that led to his recovery in less than two weeks, he was thankful to the state government for a job well done.
“I want to give kudos to the Akwa Ibom State Government because I know without them, this wouldn’t have been possible and also for the [COVID-19] team.”
Akwa Ibom State so far has 35 active cases of the disease, with 2 deaths and 14 recoveries of which Dr Asuquo is one of them.