An Italian citizen who traveled to Lagos, Nigeria’s economic nerve center, is the first confirmed case of coronavirus in sub Saharan Africa, according to the country’s Health Ministry.
The man works in Nigeria and had returned from Milan to Lagos on February 25, the ministry said. “The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” the ministry said in a statement.
“We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he entered Nigeria,” the ministry added, urging citizens not to panic. “Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic,” it said.
Nigeria’s government has been strengthening measures “to ensure an outbreak in Nigeria is controlled and contained quickly,” according to the statement.
Earlier this week, Algeria confirmed the first case on the continent, another Italian passenger who entered the country on February 17. The patient was placed in quarantine, and under close supervision, according to health authorities in Algeria.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with around 200 million citizens, so there are significant concerns about the impact of coronavirus spreading widely.
The World Health Organization recently said that an outbreak of coronavirus in Africa would hit the continent harder than China. The novel coronavirus has killed at least 2,800 people worldwide, the vast majority in mainland China. There have been more than 83,000 global cases, with infections in every continent except Antarctica.
Many of the countries in Africa are already dealing with severe health crises with limited resources, such as Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dr. Michel Yao from WHO’s Regional Office for Africa told CNN’s Becky Anderson that the organization was helping with support to detect coronavirus early.
He said: “There is actually progress made. All these countries have now laboratory capacity to test for the coronavirus. The other component is related to treatment, so for them to ensure that they have treatment capacity and also have… a contingency plan should there be a good number of cases that could challenge many of the African health services.”