Dismissing The Myths: What You Need To Know About Covid-19 In Nigeria

By Ikenga Chronicles March 26, 2020

Dismissing The Myths: What You Need To Know About Covid-19 In Nigeria

— By Dr. Obinna Oke

No doubts the Nigerian government and her agencies charged with the health safety of Nigerians failed us in tackling the spread of Corona virus when it could have been easily, and least costly done; the stage of primary prevention.

Very quickly, right from the time the Chinese authorities reported the virus to WHO on December 31st, the Nigerian health authorities should have known that Nigeria was in grave danger considering her population and attitude of her citizens. Even after the index case was confirmed on 27th February, our borders and airports were still as open and porous as ever with no checks whatsoever even for passengers coming from countries of recorded outbreak.

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Cases continued to be reported but all the Minister of health could say was that anyone who felt exposed or infected should self-quarantine. It was as though he forgot he was talking to Nigerians. They should’ve have done far better but chose dormancy instead of proactiveness and by so doing helped the spread and the would deaths by the virus. For that terrible mistake we now have far greater challenge combating this Virus already hiding in our vast population.

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We’re in a catalytic process of annihilation of half of our country’s population if nothing is done but we don’t realise it yet. The good side is that no social class, religion or ethnic group is exempted.

As a doctor, I can tell you confidently that hundreds of Nigerians are already infected with Corona virus possibly cutting across all the states and geopolitical zones of the country, and people have started dying of it. This is by the simple understanding of the mechanism of infection by Corona virus. This should be ringing in the minds of everyone.

People have come into the country. Most planes carry at least 50 passengers. Passengers exchanged talks with each other and jostled to be checked in and to board. Every passenger sat less than 0.5 meters away from the next. Those infected entered cabs or had a family member drive them home or perhaps entered buses with many other passengers straight to their children, husbands, wives or siblings who would hugged or kissed them for returning after a long period of absence. Others moved straight to a party or a camp like NYSC camp. Another moved to a club like Atiku’s son, of course with one girl or two for a soft massage after a stressful journey. They possibly kissed and did more, you already know. Each contact goes their way and continues the spread. Then later, one among the many infected who later gets hit by common sense remembers corona virus, decides to get screened because of the fever, or cough or catarrh or difficulty with breathing or weakness of their body, turns positive, and NCDC jumps to twitter to tell us that another COVID-19 case has just been diagnosed and isolated when in reality it’s one case detected against a hundred others unknown.

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More unfortunate are some health workers and non-health workers who have been dishing out and sharing theories on social media, both unconfirmed and potentially harmful ones to innocent lay Nigerians as means of preventing, limiting the spread or treating COVID-19.

Hence you need take the following warnings seriously:

Being African or bathing or drinking either hot or cold water or ice or alcohol or having high body temperature does not prevent or treat Corona virus infection. As a matter of fact, the virus itself causes high body temperature which we call fever. I once saw a flyer where these unfounded and unscientific rumours where being shared under the heading ‘Unicef’, and I wondered when Unicef became a research, scientific or medical body. Viruses are only vulnerable outside a living host, once inside, if you like set yourself ablaze, you will die and the virus will survive and go on to infect the next careless person.

When a virus enters your airway, it doesn’t crawl in your windpipe like a cockroach, so you can’t say that inhaling steam, drinking hot water or saline gaggle will delay it’s entrance into the lungs. We only recommend such practices for relief of symptoms like catarrh and sore throat for those already infected.

These viruses attach to the cells of your airway and attack the tissues they have affinity for, in this case the lungs. You can’t kill or wash them off by drinking hypo or jik. So be warned. WHO states this fact clearly.

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Again, on the rumour that Chloroquine/Hydroxychloroquine cures Corona Virus. This too is unconfirmed and has yet no medical or scientific backing. Yes, trials are on with it. Clinicians have been trying to lay their hands at anything mainly Antiviral agents, Some antihypertensives, immunomodulators, etc that can help the situation but so far nothing concrete or evidence-based has been found on them including Chloroquine. Their use is off label. But of utmost importance, is the fact that hydroxychloroquine is a very dangerous drug whose adverse effects could be more deleterious than Corona Virus if not used by a qualified doctor. Hence anyone buying chloroquine as a body armour against COVID-19 is not only wasting their money but buying something that may harm them. Again, WHO and International Pulmonologist’s Consensus on COVID-19 clearly agree to this fact.

Furthermore, some Nigerians have started saying ‘black blood is strong. I’m made of black!’ There may exist pieces of unconfirmed theories but Corona virus does not spare any race, colour, blood group or genotype. WHO clearly states this fact.

Finally, the ugliest threat we face in the fight against Corona virus is the religionists in Nigerian. Muslims and Christians. I called the caretaker of my house in Ebonyi State to warn her of Corona Virus, and the next thing she said was that Corona virus is a disease of the Egyptians. That she is a lineage of Abraham, an Israelite, that her Bible and pastor have declared that the disease of the gentiles shall not be her portion. I was completely lost. I didn’t know how to format her brain or what else to say to her.

That’s how Nigerian pastors and their sheepish followers will cause more harm because of the hogwash they call belief. Corona Virus just like bomb or earthquake or other diseases does not respect religious belief or faith. Everyone is at risk, whether a believer or an unbeliever. The best you can do for your God is to protect yourself so you can live to worship him. Even the Bible says “above all things seek ye understanding.” Again, WHO totally agrees with this.

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Nigerians must be spoken to the best way they understand. They must be made to know the level of threat we all face and how ill-prepared we are as a people. We lost the fight when we were at advantage, the stage of primary prevention. We lost by allowing the virus enter the country and for it to get to this level.

I went to Berger in Abuja. I saw how people were moving unaware of the danger in the air. I sort the trouble of one aged taxi driver whose passengers were being packed like saddin inside one mini car. ‘Oga you people still carry 4 passengers at the back seat meant for 2 and 2 in front meant for 1?’ And the man flared up. It hurt him so much that he would’ve slapped me if he had the means.

I went to Gwagwalada where confirmed cases are isolated and people are unaware of the virus. They move about carelessly. They must go to the markets for somehow they feel hunger will kill them first before the virus. Some still don’t believe that Corona virus is real. Sad anyways.

This morning, I was at God is Good Motors in Utako, Abuja and it’s the same thing. A tumultuous crowd struggling for tickets.

It’s same thing everywhere in Nigeria. Go to Lagos. Go to Kano. Go to Taraba. Go to Maiduguri. Go to Rivers. Go to Enugu. It’s the same.

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By now I think you’ve heard the way the virus is killing people in Italy, about 700 deaths in 24hours, and other countries too. You heard of how it shook China and the measures they took to eradicate it so far in their entire country. Everyone was involved. Their government and her citizens took aggressive measures, some a bit too extreme to be revealed to the world but today, China, from where Covid-19 came is now among the safe places in the world without a new case of COVID-19 particularly. It tells us still that we have a chance to survive, a change to beat Corona Virus.

But we must realize against all media brouhaha that our government isn’t as much prepared and can’t do much without each of us. For instance, our president came out after a whole 3 weeks following the confirmation of this global pandemic in Nigeria to address us and couldn’t even call the name of the virus right. He called it ‘COVIK ONE NINE VIRUS’ and one wonders where on earth he had been.

Secondly, no government or private hospital in Nigeria has an ICU capacity to admit upto fifty patients with modern and functional ventilator machines. Too poor.

Since the release of the millions of naira to the Ministry of Health, all they’ve been able to do is test a few people. What medical equipments have they been able to procure in preparation to combat the inevitable? They’ve not even supplied any group of Nigerians with either hand sanitizers or masks neither have they tried to see a way we could produce them on our own to beat their current scarcity. Hence, it’s on you, it’s on me. It’s on each of us to make sure that each of us remains uninfected and if infected, does the right thing to be diagnosed and ‘treated’.

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The following are what you must do:

Maintain physical distancing: this is paramount. Some call it social distancing but I feel physical distancing is a more appropriate term as you can still be socially close to your friends and family through social media and other modern non-physical means of communication but whichever, it simply means you must avoid as much as possible crowded places having more than 10 people in a fifty meter square area such as open markets, churches, mosques, parks, schools, camps, malls, clubs, public buses etc. Maintain at least 0.5 metre distance from the next human wherever you are and at least 2 metres from anyone coughing or sneezing.

Constantly wash your hands with soap and enough water (running water). Adequate handwashing takes at least 30 to 60 seconds. You can watch the video on YouTube or WHO website or see the graphical illustration below.

Soap is the simplest and most effective way to get rid of COVID-19. It dissolves the fatty layer that coats coronaviruses. However, in the absence of soap and water, alcohol based solutions particularly those with greater than 60% alcohol content also inactivates the virus but you must apply it generously to wet all your hand surfaces.

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Cover your mouth with your bent elbow or single use tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose immediately afterwards into a closed bin, and wash your hands.

Do not touch your nose, mouth or eyes with unwashed hands.

Constantly sanitize other surfaces and objects you touch often like phones, tables, door knobs etc.

Keep your immune system up: feed well, rest, sleep and exercise.

Stay at home as much as possible.

Avoid contact with people for at least 14 days if you recently travelled to a country with Corona virus outbreak.

If within the 14 days you start having a fever, cough, sneezing, difficulty breathing, or weakness of body or muscle pains, please call NCDC on 0800097000010. It’s toll free. You can also visit a hospital where you can have access to a doctor. Do not subscribe to self-medication. It’s only in a designated hospital that a test can be done to find out if it’s Corona virus you have, and then manage you professionally.

Doctors and other health workers must ensure they wear their personal Protective Equipments (PPE). You can quit your job if your hospital management refuses to provide you with the basic ones.

So far, there is no cure or vaccine for Corona Virus. Infected people are currently managed supportively and symptomatically until they recover or die.

However, there are risks for severity or fatality by the virus which include old age of 60 years and above, male sex, background medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiomyopathies (heart diseases), Chronic airway diseases, and immunosuppressive conditions which include malnutrition, chronic kidney disease, chronic alcoholism and smoking, HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, drug abusers, extreme stress etc. Most Nigerians from 40 and above are hypertensive or diabetic but they don’t know. Majority of those below 40 to 16 are drug addicts and have HIV/AIDS but they don’t know while many children from 15 below are malnourished. Hence no group should think they are spared. The disease causes inflammation and fibrosis of the lungs, blocking spaces where oxygen should be exchanged for Carbon(iv)oxide making you suffer and possibly die from what you’ll best understand as suffocation.

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We do not recommend routine wearing of nose masks and hand gloves except for those already infected. People taking care of the infected or potentially infected individuals such as doctors and other heath workers, and those visiting areas where there are infected people.

You don’t need too much information about Corona virus before you protect yourself. The above is enough to avoid confusion.

The WHO, CDC, and the International Pulmonologist’s Concensus on COVID-19 approve of everything I’ve written here, and admonishes all to religiously abide by them.

WHO has also dedicated an active website for COVID-19 which they update daily. You’re advised to get information from them only and from other relaible local sources such as NCDC and your doctor. The website is: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/media-resources. You can subscribe to their updates and newsletters.

Stay safe.
Protect yourself.
Protect your family.
Protect your community.
Together, we can beat COVID-19