An Italian man who arrived in Nigeria this week is the African country’s first case of coronavirus, the health minister said, as infections spread worldwide.
The Health Ministry said on Twitter the case was in Lagos state, home to the south-western commercial capital of the same name. Lagos is the biggest city in Africa’s most populous country, with a population of about 20 million.
“The case is the first to be reported in Nigeria since the beginning of the outbreak in China in January,” the health ministry said in its post, adding the infection was confirmed on Thursday.
Health minister Osagie Ehanire, in a statement, said the case was an Italian citizen working in Nigeria and returned from Milan to Lagos on February 25.
His infection was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms,” said the minister, adding he was treated at a hospital in the Lagos district Yaba.
“We started working to identify all contacts of the patient since he entered Nigeria,” said Ehanire.
The minister said authorities are strengthening measures to ensure an outbreak in Nigeria is controlled and quickly contained.
There is no cure for the coronavirus, which can lead to pneumonia and a vaccine may take up to 18 months to develop.
Radical quarantine measures helped slow the rate of transmission in China but it is picking up pace in other countries.
Ehanire said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) activated its national Emergency Operations Centre and will work closely with Lagos State Health authorities to respond and implement control measures.
Hopes that the virus would be contained in China vanished as infections spread, with countries beginning to stockpile medical equipment and investors taking flight in expectation of a global recession.
The virus has so far caused nearly 80 000 infections and almost 2 800 deaths, according official Chinese figures. It spread to 46 countries, where about 3 700 cases and 57 deaths have been reported, according to the WHO.