Like a flash in the pan, the spread of the widely reported virus, Corona, has eventually got into Nigeria. The virus which originated from the Wuhan province in China is the latest monster threatening not only high ranging mortality, but also a disruption of socio-economic life and international trade on a global scale. From Australia to Estonia, Japan to India, the deadly virus seems to be on the race to infect the whole world.
So, on the midnight of Friday 27 February, 2020, an Italian who was on a brief business trip, came into Nigeria with the virus through the International Airport in Lagos. This made the case first of its kind in Sub Saharan African. For a country that has been battling with the Lassa Fever outbreak, it seems a double tragedy for the nation. This is within the background of the failing health infrastructure in Nigeria. However, this is not time to falter. Agencies of government responsible for disease and disaster control need to rise to the occasion to ensure the spread of the deadly virus is contained and managed with no or minimal fatality. A review of a research article brings to the fore what the health authorities must take cognizance of as the nation battles to stop the virus on its track. Lessons learnt from curtailing the Ebola outbreak six years ago must be brought to bear this time around.
Initiating the Incident Management Approach. According to the research which examined the Incident Management Approach used to manage the Ebola outbreak then in the country, this approach involves initiating four public health protection strategies which could help in weakening the spread of the virus among the populace. These strategies are examined one after the other.
#Surveillance. At this level of the emergence of the virus, surveillance is the first strategy to be deployed. This is done by contact tracing. By this, there is an urgent need to begin to trace people who might have had contact with the Italian victim of the virus. That the novel virus was brought into the country by a foreigner was cheery news. It made the discovery faster and also minimized the number of contacts he might have had access to. However, this little good piece of news could become awry if those who have had contact with him could not be traced and quarantined. The race to prevent further spread could only be won if only government agencies such as National Centre for Disease Control could step up their surveillance game.
#Incidence Prevention & Control. This is an epidemiological approach used to study the origin and causes of disease outbreak in any community. The incidence prevention and control is a tool deployed in understanding the dynamics of any epidemics. It was employed in the combat against Ebola. It categorised individuals into susceptible individuals, hospitalized individuals, exposed individuals, infectious symptomatic individuals and isolated individuals. In the case of the novel virus in Nigeria, it is still too early to determine what is going to happen. However, the NCDC should activate the approach that was successfully used to curtail in the days coming ahead. As of today, the Italy based Nigerian footballer, King Paul Akpan Udoh is the first and only Nigerian to have tested positive for the virus. Good enough, it is outside the shores of the country.
#Education. At this stage, Nigerians need education on the virus. This would involve deploying all available means to reach the people in the language they understand. The NCDC should liaise with the Federal and State Ministries of Health as well as the National Orientation Agency to come up with educational materials that explains what the novel virus is, how it is contacted and its prevention. Local languages should be used in audio-visual materials, infographics, flyers and handbills. Being ignorant in this case could be deadly.
#Communication. This is usually at the heart of any campaign. It is the pillar upon which the curtailment of any outbreak lies. In this case, it should be well coordinated, detailed and decentralized. As it was during the Ebola outbreak so should it be now in the days ahead. Responses across the country should be coordinated by the Ministry of Health through the National Disease Control Centre by the Minister of Health. This should go down to the local health authorities. If this bottom-up approach is adopted, it would make the reportage of any suspected case of the virus robust.