Dr Clement Peter, Officer-in-Charge of World Health Organisation (WHO) in Nigeria, says the agency is supporting Federal Government’s effort at scaling up preparations in handling coronavirus.
According to reports, the virus which originated in China (Wuhan) has been reported in 20 countries recording 500 deaths in China alone.
Peter told the Newsmen in Abuja that the agency had been working with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to provide reagents for testing the virus.
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“I am happy to say that WHO is working with NCDC. But globally, we need to move to countries to provide reagents. What we called primers is because test can be done anywhere in Nigeria.
“These primers are very important, other partners are also bringing some reagents into the country. If we have suspected case, we can confirm through primers.
“But how do you rule out if it coronavirus or not? It is good to have good case definition, like who do you suspect?
“ So that when you take samples, you narrow it to those that you have suspected and not taken everyone.
“On the issue of capacity, at least to treat is very important. I think in Lagos and Abuja; there are some discussions to have isolation capacity.
“That was in the beginning, but with the declaration of coronavirus as a global health emergency, we need to scale up in terms of preparedness.
“ That means, we need to have more facilities available to be used as centres.
“We have five states that are considered high risk, with five points of entry, which are Enugu, Lagos, Rivers, Kano and the FCT. We need to have capacity to diagnose because with the declaration of global public health emergency.
“WHO does not restrict movement and trade, it has to continue because that affects the economy. People might come from China to Nigeria, so we need to be on alert.
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Peter also said the agency had been working with NCDC since the case was first reported, given the linkage between Nigeria and China citizens.
“A lot of Nigerians are in China and a lot of Chinese are in Nigeria or coming into Nigeria; this means in terms of risk, it is high and anything can happen.
“Secondly, from the presentation of the diseases, there are many unknown things about the virus, it presents like a mild illness, common cold and difficulty in breathing and death,’’ the official said.
According to him, the literature on coronavirus shows that the virus may not present any symptoms during screening at the point of entry, but develops symptoms later.
Peter said the most important thing was to have a case definition, a case surveillance for tracking, adding that screening at the ports of entry should be strengthened and capacity to diagnose.
The expert said the declaration of WHO to make coronavirus as global health emergency showed that the whole world had to be prepared for any possibility.
He said the whole world had to build capacity and surveillance to treat should there be an outbreak.
“It is not a situation that has been confined to one country because the cases have spread, so we do not control it globally, it will further spread to more countries and additional countries.
“ And it becomes challenging when countries with weak health system report these cases, it becomes challenging now that the WHO made it a global health emergency.
“The declaration is normal for three months and it will be reviewed.’’
WHO had on January 30, declared novel coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), based on the recommendations of the Emergency Committee on Coronavirus.