• Minister of Health, Professor Osagie Ehanire

Two suspected persons are presently undergoing series of test for Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria, the Federal Government revealed on Friday, assuring Nigerians that as soon as the tests are completed, it would be made known if they are positive.

The government made this known even as it also stated that some German health experts and a group of Nigerian scientists were already working together to develop vaccine against Lassa fever.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who gave an update on the disease in Abuja said the two suspects have been undergoing series of tests in the country since Thursday night; noting however that no one had so far tested positive for the disease in Nigeria.

He pointed out that at least 30 investigations has been carried out so far, and out of the cases earlier examined nobody had tested positive.

Dr Ihekweazu said: "At least we have had 30 investigations of people that have called us for one reason or the other. Out of that, two of them have met the case definition, that is, the person will have to have returned in the last 14 days.

"The two cases were tested and were found negative. Last night (Thursday night), we had another two, and tests are going on at the moment. As soon as they are completed, it will be announced. If a person returns to the country, say within 20 or 30 days, there is no point wasting reagents to test such a person."
He added: "For other diseases, we usually advise people to go to the hospitals to get tested, but for suspected cases of coronavirus, patients are advised to simply put a call through to us, we will come to the patient because going to the hospital can amplify the disease if it is found to be positive.

"Be assured that if there is a positive case, we will be the first to announce it. So if you see something on social media saying a number of people have died of the virus in Nigeria, it is simply a rumour. It is not possible that it will happen because there are only three labs in Nigeria that run these tests.

"Once there is a positive, I will be informed and will inform the Minister of Health who will announce it. There is no other way this information can get out.

"On behalf of the Africa Centre for Disease Control, Nigeria has been asked to lead on the training on infection prevention and control for the continent. The training will happen in Abuja starting on the 20th of the month, to standardize our approach to infection prevention and control".

On the issue of Lassa fever, the Federal Government also revealed that Nigeria is now in partnership with Germany to develop the vaccine.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire said some German health experts and a group of Nigerian scientists were working together at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Benin to develop vaccine against Lassa fever.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja, the Minister said the vaccine production had passed its first stage, but added that it could still take some time before the final production would be released for public use.

Dr Osagie Ehanire said: "Top Nigerian scientists in Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital are working on a vaccine for Lassa fever in collaboration with German experts. They have conducted a first stage trial. It might take a couple of years to completely develop it because developing a vaccine is in stages.

"However, testing if it works and is safe will require some time. It has to go through several stages of quality control before it can be deployed. There is a lot of progress at the moment. Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital is Nigeria's centre for excellence for viral hemorrhagic infections. It is where a lot of research is being conducted, and where a lot of tests are being done. They have a lot of equipment and get a lot of support from abroad including German, British and American Institutes."

Apart from the prospect of producing a home-made vaccine against Lassa fever, the minister pointed out that Nigeria had five laboratories where samples of the disease could be tested, while the sixth laboratory is on the verge of completion.

He said: "We have five laboratories that can diagnose Lassa fever, and they are strategically placed. In fact, we are in the process of getting the sixth one now courtesy of West African Health Organisation, which we also want to place strategically so that the distance towards getting samples to laboratories is minimal. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control will decide on the strategic location."

 (Nigerian Tribune)


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