The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, NCDC, has debunked reports of an alleged detection of 25 new COVID-19 cases in Benue State.

Dismissing the report as a complete misrepresentation, the Director General of the Agency, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, called for the prevention of misinformation that could fuel unnecessary concern and panic among Nigerians.

In an official statement, Adetifa however, said from October to December 2023, a total of 15,481 tests were conducted in the country, out of which 75 confirmed cases were confirmed in 25 states.The statement reads: “The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, NCDC, is aware of the news report on the detection of 25 new COVID-19 cases in Benue State.

“The report is a complete misinterpretation of a statement made on 11th December 2023 by a World Health Organization, WHO, State surveillance officer at the Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, and Media Personnel Meeting organised by the Benue State Primary Healthcare Board in collaboration with the WHO.

“The surveillance officer, while giving her presentation on the epidemiology of COVID-19 in Benue, stated that ‘Benue State had recorded a total of 25 cases in the year 2023 with the last case recorded as of mid-April (epi week 18)”.Further, Adetifa explained that the information provided by the surveillance officer was based on the publicly available situation report, SITREP, published weekly by the state ministry of health.“Since the announcement of the index case of COVID-19 in Nigeria, there has been a total number 6,013,826 tests conducted, 267,184 confirmed case and 3,155 deaths.

“In the last quarter of the year (October to December 2023), there have been a total of 15,481 tests conducted, 75 cases were confirmed in 25 states.“Since the WHO official declaration that COVID-19 no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the NCDC, has included COVID-19 in the integrated disease surveillance strategy as a priority infectious disease which now requires conducting routine COVID-19 testing and reporting it along with other infectious diseases.

”The DG said COVID-19 testing is part of clinical care for pandemic flu preparedness, and bi-directional testing during investigations for influenza, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and in high-risk populations.“As COVID-19 may be associated with severe illness, hospitalization, and death among the elderly and other established high-risk groups, we continue to test for and detect COVID-19 cases throughout the year from patients presenting with Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) or Influenza-like illness (ILI).

“Ongoing efforts to streamline surveillance for pandemic influenza, SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory pathogens of interest e.g., Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infections include the transition from existing sentinel influenza surveillance and COVID-19 testing platforms to a pan-respiratory disease surveillance (PRDS) platform that will pick up changes in admissions and other outcomes related to priority respiratory pathogens.

“As the fourth estate of the realm, the role of the media is both critical and indispensable to public health and national security and the NCDC values our partnership with our media colleagues.“While we appreciate this collaboration, we will continue to reiterate the importance of responsible reporting to ensure the dissemination of accurate information and to avert any public health threat that may arise from the infodemics that follow incorrect and/or sensational health reports.

“This is essential in preventing any misinformation that could fuel unnecessary concern and panic among Nigerians.”The D-G assured that the NCDC remains committed to protecting the health of Nigerians and ensuring trust through transparency by consistently fostering open communication channels and providing accurate and timely information on issues of public health importance.

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