WAHO advises Nigerians on outbreak of coronavirus in China


West African Health Organisation (WAHO) has advised Nigerians on the recent outbreak of coronavirus infection in China so that they can protect themselves and the region.

The WAHO Director General, Prof. Stanley Okolo, gave the advice in a statement on Monday in Abuja.

First identified by Chinese researchers with the pathogen behind a mysterious illness that had sickened 59 people in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China, coronavirus is a group of viruses common among animals but now confirmed that it could also infect humans.

The large family of viruses can cause diseases ranging from common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Okolo said that WAHO was fully in support of World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations to countries regarding active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, and contact tracing to prevent further spread of the outbreak.

He said that WAHO was coordinating with member states to share real-time information on the outbreak, enhance communication between countries and strengthen countries’ surveillance capacity.

He added that “this would include early detection of suspected cases through thermal camera surveillance at international borders.

“One such suspected case arriving Abidjan airport recently was immediately detected and isolated and tests performed to confirm whether it was a case of coronavirus or not.”

He said that there were implemented regional laboratory network for access to rapid biological diagnostic facilities by member states.

He further stated that there were standby Regional Rapid Response Team to support countries if required.

The WAHO boss advised Nigerians to take measures to protect themselves and their loved ones, noting that such measures included frequent washing of hands with soap and water or clean them using alcohol-based sanitisers.

He further advised that when coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with tissue or hand, and throw away the tissue immediately and wash your hands thoroughly, avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough.

“If you have fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care immediately and inform your healthcare provider of all your recent travel history. In any areas with high suspicion of coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting markets,” he advised.

Okolo also cautioned against the consumption of raw or undercooked meat, vegetables to avoid contamination.

He said that WAHO would continue to monitor and provide regular updates on the rapidly changing situation.

It would be recalled that the first case of coronavirus was reported in Wuhan Province of China in December 2019 and confirmed on Jan. 7, 2020.

However, about 3000 cases were confirmed across the world by Jan. 27, 2020, with 2744 cases and 80 deaths so far in China alone.

WHO assessed the risk of the outbreak to be in China, and moderated globally, including in West Africa.

It was therefore critical that all countries collaborated with to take precautionary measures since cases may appear in any country due to international travel.