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CORONAVIRUS: Africa on alert as WHO Emergency Committee tells countries to prepare for containment

  • Nigeria places Port Health Service unit on alert

  • Ghana maps out response mechanism

  • South Africa places emergency operations centre on alert

  • Kenya steps up surveillance

Medical staff transfer a patient with what is highly suspected to be a case of the new coronavirus at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Emergency Committee today Jan 23, urged countries to prepare for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of the novel  Coronavirus (2019-nCoV infection) now spreading across the world.

So far, the organization confirmed that more than 500 people have been infected, and at least 17 people have died, from  the new virus said to be of the same family as SARS and the common cold.

The new coronavirus (known as 2019-nCoV) was first reported in Wuhan City, China, on 31 December 2019, and has since been detected in travellers to other countries.

The Committee advised countries to follow travel advice from WHO and “place particular emphasis on reducing human infection, prevention of secondary transmission and international spread and contributing to the international response though multi-sectoral communication and collaboration and active participation in increasing knowledge on the virus and the disease, as well as advancing research.”

“It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection, and to share full data with WHO,” the Committee said.

Meanwhile, some African countries have announced measures to protect the continent against the raging virus.

Nigeria issues Public  alert


The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Wednesday January 22, issues a travel advisory and announced that  it is coordinating a multisectoral technical group that is assessing and managing the risk of importation of Coronavirus  to Nigeria.

“NCDC is in close communication with the World Health Organization (WHO) who is closely monitoring the situation globally. WHO is in direct communication with the Government of China and other affected countries, and has released technical and travel guidance.

“The Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria has been placed on alert and has heightened screening measures at the points of entry. In China, exit screening measures have been enhanced for travellers from Wuhan city at the Points of Entry (PoE) (airports and ground transport stations) since the 14th of January 2020. This includes temperature checks, combined with provision of information and masks to passengers with fever, as well as directing symptomatic passengers to health facilities for follow up.

“Nigerians are advised to remain calm. Travelers from Nigeria to Wuhan, China, are advised to avoid contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead), and animal markets.

“Travelers from Wuhan to Nigeria, may be asked questions upon arrival by the Port Health Services unit at points of entry about symptoms of illness and travel history, and are advised to report immediately to NCDC, if they feel ill after a trip to Wuhan.

On protection, the agency advised Nigerian to wash their hands regularly with soap under running water.

  • Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing
  • Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms
  • Healthcare workers are always advised to observe standard infection prevention and control measures when attending to patients and take a travel history..

Ghana mounts surveillance at entry points

The government of Ghana convened a meeting with other development partners on Thursday to map out a response mechanism over the spreading virus.

The director of public health, Dr. Badu Sarkodie, told the media that a tentative plan had been put together on how to deal with the virus. Like with other African countries, Ghana has mounted surveillance at entry points.

“So far no case recorded,” he told the media stressing that with the world being a global village, it was important that screening is taken seriously.

Already, passengers from China’s Guangzhou via Addis Ababa are being  screened after disembarking.

South Africa distributes clinical guidelines and case definitions to doctors and nurses

Dr. Zwelini Mkhize
Sought African Health Minister

South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Tuesday January 21, said while there have been no cases of the 2019-nCoV in South Africa or the African continent, an emergency operations centre is in alert mode, and could be activated, should the need arise.

The NICD said it has, together with the national department of health, developed and distributed clinical guidelines and case definitions for doctors and nurses in both the public and private sectors to better detect, identify and respond to a possible 2019-nCoV case in South Africa.

This includes guidance on what samples to collect to confirm the diagnosis, as well as how to best manage the case clinically and to prevent a spread to others while the diagnosis is being made.

“Furthermore, South Africa has in place routine fever screening at ports of entry, guidance documents, including the case definitions and what to do should a suspected case be identified have been distributed to staff at the ports.” the Institute said.

Kenya screens passengers from China at airport

Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reports that passengers entering Kenya  from China now undergo thorough screening for the  new flu-like virus before being allowed into the country.

“We have sent an alert to all the 47 counties. We have also heightened surveillance at all points of entry and screening has started,” Health Ministry’s Acting Director-General, Dr Patrick Amoth, was quoted to have disclosed at the launch of the Kenya Harmonised Health Facility Assessment report.

Kenya  has vast business relations with China. At least three flights land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), where the country’s national carrier, Kenya Airways, operates two non-stop flights daily between Nairobi and Guangzhou.

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