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The Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos. The coronavirus case involves an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and just returned to Lagos from Milan, Italy on 25 February/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

Nigeria confirms first case of coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus in a statement issued in the early hours of Friday, 28 February. It’s also the first case of the disease registered in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the statement, the case involves an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and just returned from Milan, Italy on 25 February.

The health ministry, however, noted that the patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

“The Government of Nigeria, 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 immediately 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,” the statement said.

“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,” the ministry added.

“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.”

Elsewhere on the continent, Algeria and Egypt have also confirmed cases of the disease.

The World Health Organization had warned that Africa’s “fragile health systems” meant the threat posed by the virus “is considerable”, advising that all containment measures should be put in place.

More than 80,000 people in nearly 50 countries worldwide have been infected. Nearly 2,800 have died, the majority in China’s Hubei province.

Kola Tella

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