The first case of Coronavirus in Nigeria was brought in by an Italian citizen. The test was confirmed by Lagos University Teaching Hospital Virology Laboratory Dept. on February 27, 2020. The mystery right now about Coronavirus is the admission by the best world medical scientists that they are still struggling with the etiology since countries without a link to China are discovering local Coronavirus within.
Some African students in Wuhan, China are begging their home countries to bring them home while others preferred to stay, saying they are well treated. African Embassies in China must seek the wellbeing of those African students that are stuck in Wuhan. Some of the African countries have been told that they will not be discriminated against at the hospitals in case of treatment. South Africa has resolved to bring willing students home.
During the Ebola trying period in West Africa, when there was no food for those kept in isolation, they broke out of the camps looking for something to eat. This led to anger against local and foreign health workers trying to contain them in quarantine on empty stomachs. We always wait until a disaster happens to rectify what we should have taken care of in the first place. The provision of food for folks in isolation is not difficult to anticipate.
African countries must increase and coordinate food storage to feed the number of people that will face quarantine later, to prevent spread. We cannot hold hungry people in isolation without an adequate supply of food. It almost truncated the gains made against Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Prevention can only be effective with food for those restricted to isolation or quarantine, especially with a virus that has no vaccine or cure.
We must be prepared and be ready as Nigeria did with Ebola receiving world accolades while the United States panicked. Africa’s strength must be locally demonstrated. Even with Ebola, it took Lagos State good old residual public health knowledge, lay people’s vigilance, contact tracing and a small University at Ede that developed local diagnosis machines to wrestle Ebola down. The diagnosis and tests were performed locally.
Dr. Rima E. Laibow attended a conference of African health ministers to foist NanoSilver as a cure for Ebola. Lagos State rejected Nano Silver as another foreign miracle drug savior for Africans. Heaven only helps those who help themselves. The cooperation in the communities shows that each and every one of us has a role to play. The time to prevent the deadly mortification of Africa by Coronavirus is now!
Nevertheless, there are unscrupulous quacks jumping out to announce a cure by miracles. This may be expected anywhere, but Africans that have experienced Ebola devastated effects recently cannot be complacent. Those quacks that perpetuate poverty but cannot cure diseases rampant in their community, must face consequences.
Those taking advantage of people’s fear to cause panic or proclaim fake cure for Coronavirus just to make money or attract followers must be held responsible and punished. Though Coronavirus is more infectious than Ebola, transmittable than the Flu and more lethal to health workers, it has no genetic peculiarity to one group of people or confers immunity on you because you are from a certain continent.
Equally notable, some countries have always weaponized infectious diseases like the Coronavirus Pandemic, against their political opponents to justify or blame others for any economic consequences. Ignorance, panic, denial, and fear of the unknown must not defeat knowledge, cooperation and transparency.
Stock markets can be driven up based on rosy forecasts and speculations but we cannot manipulate natural disasters outside our control. As long as there are lives, there will be people to trade at the stock markets. Japan has closed some schools, others have cancelled sports and religious activities. Indeed, Saudi Arabia has cancelled pilgrimage for those seeking the face of God in their country.
Nevertheless, those returning from affected countries including Middle East countries in North Africa should be thoroughly checked and put under surveillance. We must learn from the mistakes of the past and make places available for the sick and others that may need to be quarantined before they are released back into the communities. Community health workers and local medical scientists must lead these efforts.
The old Public Health ideology focusing on the most number of people that Prevention is better than cure still holds. Unfortunately, infectious diseases respect no border, barrier or continent. The only defense against Coronavirus is cooperation with world experts in sciences and sociology. Discrimination based on race cannot prevent environmental agents from natural movement and transmission.
Prevention and treatment of diseases should be available in all countries regardless of the resident’s status since it is the only way to protect citizens. We should not wait until an emergency and pandemic to spend money for the cure when less could have been spent to prevent diseases. We should have learned from HIV and various flu blowing around the world with birds and the wind as agents.
Health For All by the Year 2000 is now history. World politics has made it more difficult for the poor to get medical treatment in their own countries. Treatment and prescription drugs have to be prioritized on the Health Insurance they have. If the poor have problems getting care in their own rich countries, outsiders stand no chance.
Many African countries spend more on individual treatments abroad than in their countries’ hospitals. Health Education on the importance of handwashing, clean environment, well-prepared food must be re-emphasized in schools like the old good days where sanitary inspectors were powerful.