LAGOS: Nigeria became the novel coronavirus’s most recent victim as a health official on Friday confirmed the first case of the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.
The infected is a citizen of Italy who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan earlier this week, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire revealed in a statement on Twitter.
“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” Ehanire said.
In recent days, Italy has become the hot center of infection, with Europe’s biggest outbreak.
But Africa’s low number of cases, which have close economic ties to China, the epicenter of the deadly outbreak, has surprised health specialists.
There had been only two incidents across the continent prior to the event in Nigeria, that is, in Egypt and Algeria.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization cautioned that African health systems are ill-equipped to respond should cases begin to increase.
Ehanire said, however, that the government was working to ensure that an outbreak is “controlled and quickly contained.”
“I wish to assure all Nigerians that… we have been beefing up our preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China,” he said.
“We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient since he entered Nigeria.”
The epidemic, which began in December, has already killed more than 2,800 people in China and infected more than 78,000 people.
Chief of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that spreading the virus to countries with weaker health systems was “our main concern.”
“These patients require intensive care using equipment such as respiratory support machines that are, as you know, in short supply in many African countries and that´s a cause for concern,” he said.
Many African carriers like Kenya Airways have suspended flights to China, even though Ethiopian Airlines, the continent’s largest airline, has kept its China routes open.