Dr. Babafemi Adenuga
Watching the current trend of the Covid-19 virus and the rate of infectivity in Nigeria, I don’t believe it’s too early to say that we are likely to have more asymptomatic carriers of the virus than people who are infected and sick.
Basically, in non-medical terms this means there will be more people infected with the virus who are unaware they have it because they are not sick. This may be a good thing for our country, as the number of sick people or deaths in such a situation will remain low provided people stay in their respective homes and self-isolate for 14 days as recommended to flatten the curve for the spread of the virus.
However, the downside to this hopeful trend is as follows; because “testing” is not widely available in Nigeria, people will not be convinced that self-isolation is necessary. Therefore, most of these people will continue moving around and infecting others to the extent that the vulnerable ones who will get sick will then begin to emerge eventually leading to a crisis. We missed the window of opportunity beyond the index case to ensure that all passengers on all flights that came into the Nigeria without exception were properly isolated albeit for 3-4 days and tested before allowing them to go into the community. In my opinion our solutions now are the following:
1) Aggressive testing…test, test, test!!!. My view on this, is to reserve the antigen (PCR) testing method for the asymptomatic individuals (i.e. people without symptoms) and the symptomatic individuals get the antibody IgM/IgG.
2) Due to the scarcity or lack of availability of accessible and reliable test kits, self-isolation for a minimum of 14 days has to be enforced. Subsequently, a reassessment of the pattern and trend of the disease will help determine next steps as it relates to lifting restrictions. This unfortunately remains our only solution.
For the private sector, who are working diligently to support the government, provision of validated test kits to the government and making them readily available to the citizens should be the most valuable contribution at this stage. This is equally as important as the isolation centers. The measures taken by China are an important asset to us right now based on their experience and success at combating this deadly disease. Whether we like it or not, the test kits that are currently being marketed all over social media is about to enter the Nigerian market, nobody can stop it. What the government or any interested parties in the private sector can do for the public right now, is to find a way to validate these products so people are at least informed of the reliability and the appropriate ones to use.
Once these products hit the market and are in abundant use, if the reliability is inaccurate, lives are put at more risk. More people will believe they have tested negative with the false validation from an inaccurate, widely available test kit and therein lies the danger. My point is that these test kits may be our solution, but let’s be responsible as a nation to validate the reliability of these test kits currently being advertised before they hit the market, than condemn and ignore them, knowing it will make its way into our market and become available for use.
Let’s all make the effort to stay safe and remember, we are our neighbor’s keeper and together we can fight Covid-19 as a nation. God help us all!
Dr. Babafemi Adenuga
Associate Professor, Family Medicine