Nigerian Officials Contact 100 People Who Might Have Been Exposed to Coronavirus Patient

March 2, 2020 Updated: March 2, 2020

Nigerian health officials have contacted about 100 people who might have been in contact with the West African nation’s first COVID-19 coronavirus patient—identified as an Italian man—in an attempt to prevent an outbreak.

The Italian man arrived in Lagos, the most populous city, from Milan on Feb. 24 on a Turkish Airlines flight that connected in Istanbul, said officials in a Reuters report on Monday.

The Federal Ministry of Health said it “confirmed a coronavirus case in Lagos State Nigeria” and “was confirmed” on Feb. 27, according to a post on Twitter. The head of Nigeria’s Center for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, wrote that one “case is not a sign of failure” and called on residents to “avoid rumors” and not to “panic.”

Lagos state Health Commissioner Akin Abayomi told the news agency that about “100 people” have been contacted so far by health authorities, “but that number is increasing every minute.” He said the patient works as a vendor for a cement firm in Ogun state.

“The number is going up all the time as we find people who were on the flight. We found people who were on the journey to Ogun, in contact with him at the factory and people at the hotel,” Abayomi continued.

The Italian patient is being treated at a hospital in the Lagos district of Yaba. Namely, he works for Lafarge Africa Plc., which said on Sunday that its operations are still going, adding that 39 people who came into contact with the man have been quarantined.

The World International Health Organization (WHO) last week stated that Nigeria was one of 13 countries identified by experts as “high priority.” WHO experts were already on the ground in the country. Experts have sounded the alarm after the first case, as it was reported in the most populous African nation and one where health care systems are already burdened with malaria, Ebola, measles, Lassa fever, and other diseases.

“With the first case of COVID19 in sub-Saharan Africa confirmed in Nigeria, the virus is no longer a threat but a reality in the Region,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement last week. “Now is not the time for fear, but solidarity, cooperation & collective commitment from all.”

The virus emerged late last year in mainland China, sickening tens of thousands of people and prompting officials to implement harsh controls in outbreak epicenter Wuhan, located in Hubei Province. Since then, outbreaks have been reported in Iran, South Korea, and Italy.