THE first case of the coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa has been confirmed in Nigeria. The patient is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and flew into the commercial city of Lagos from Milan on 25 February. Authorities say he is stable with no serious symptoms and is being treated at a hospital in the city.
Elsewhere on the continent, Algeria and Egypt have also confirmed cases of the disease. The World Health Organisation had warned that Africa’s “fragile health systems” meant the threat posed by the virus “is considerable”.
Globally, more than 80 000 people in nearly 50 countries have been infected. Nearly 2 800 have died, the majority in China’s Hubei province.
Nigerian authorities say the Italian patient – who had flown in from Milan, a city badly hit by the coronavirus outbreak – is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.
“We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he entered Nigeria,” the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said in a statement.
Nigeria has been preparing to deal with the outbreak since it was reported in China’s Wuhan city in January, it added.
The coronavirus outbreak has reached a “decisive point” and has “pandemic potential”, World Health Organization head Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.
He urged governments to act swiftly and aggressively to contain the virus.
“We are actually in a very delicate situation in which the outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it,” he said.
“This is not a time for fear. This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives now,” he added.