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Lagos, Nigeria (CNB News) – The first case of the coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa has been reported in Nigeria. The patient is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and flew into the commercial capital Lagos from Milan on 25 February.

Authorities say he is stable with no serious symptoms and is being treated at a hospital in Lagos. The Nigerian government said it had prepared for this eventuality and had activated its national emergency operations centre to implement control measures.

The authorities have started identifying all those who may have come into contact with the patient since his return to Nigeria.

More than 80,000 people are now known to be infected in 40 countries. More than 60 people are known to have died outside China, where the outbreak began. However, the number of infections reported within mainland China continues to fall. Elsewhere on the African continent, Algeria and Egypt have also confirmed cases of the disease.

A statement released by the state Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, says the case, which was confirmed on the 27th of February 2020, is of an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on the 25th of Feburary from Milan, Italy for a brief business visit. He fell ill on the 26th February and was transfered to Lagos State Biosecurity Facilities for isolation and testing.

COVID-19 infection was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

He said the Italian patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

”The Government of Lagos State under the Governor as the COVID-19 Incident Commander, through the the Lagos State Ministry of Health, has been strengthening measures to ensure that any outbreak in Lagos is controlled and contained quickly in collaboration with the multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group, led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). We have immediately activated the State Emergency Operations Centre to respond to this case and implement firm control measures” the statement read

The Commissioner assured all Lagosians and Nigerians that the state has been strengthening its preparedness since the first confirmation of cases in China and vowed that the state will use all its resources made available to respond to this case. He added that efforts are been made to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he arrived in Nigeria.

According to the statement, most people who become infected with the virus, may experience only a mild illness and recover easily, but it can be more severe in others, particularly the elderly and persons with other underlying chronic illnesses.  The Commssioner advised all residents of the state to take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families.

What are the symptoms?

It seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough.

After a week, it leads to shortness of breath and some patients require hospital treatment.

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The incubation period – between infection and showing any symptoms – lasts up to 14 days, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

But some researchers say it may be as long as 24 days.

And Chinese scientists say some people may be infectious even before their symptoms appear.

How deadly is the coronavirus?

Based on data from 44,000 patients with this coronavirus, the WHO says:

  • 81% develop mild symptoms
  • 14% develop severe symptoms
  • 5% become critically ill

The proportion dying from the disease, which has been named Covid-19, appears low (between 1% and 2%) – but the figures are unreliable.

Thousands are still being treated but may go on to die – so the death rate could be higher. But it is also unclear how many mild cases remain unreported – so the death rate could also be lower.

To put this into context, about one billion people catch influenza every year, with between 290,000 and 650,000 deaths. The severity of flu changes every year.

Can coronavirus be treated or cured?

Right now, treatment relies on the basics – keeping the patient’s body going, including breathing support, until their immune system can fight off the virus.

However, the work to develop a vaccine is under way and it is hoped there will be human trials before the end of the year.

Hospitals are also testing anti-viral drugs to see if they have an impact

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How can I protect myself?

The WHO says:

  • Wash your hands – soap or hand gel can kill the virus
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing – ideally with a tissue – and wash your hands afterwards, to prevent the virus spreading
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – if your hands touch a surface contaminated by the virus, this could transfer it into your body
  • Don’t get too close to people coughing, sneezing or with a fever – they can propel small droplets containing the virus into the air – ideally, keep 1m (3ft) away

How fast is it spreading?

Thousands of new cases are being reported each day. However, analysts believe the true scale could be 10 times larger than official figures.

Outbreaks have now occurred in South Korea, Italy and Iran, raising fears that it could become a pandemic. A pandemic is declared when an infectious disease threatens different parts of the world simultaneously.

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The WHO has said it is concerned about the number of cases with no clear link to China or other confirmed cases. It has said the window of opportunity to contain the virus was “narrowing”.

With colds and flu tending to spread fastest in the winter, there is hope the turning of the seasons may help stem the outbreak.

However, a different strain of coronavirus – Middle East respiratory syndrome – emerged in the summer, in Saudi Arabia, so there’s no guarantee warmer weather will halt the outbreak.

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