ABUJA, NIGERIA - Nigerian Health authorities are preparing to handle any possible outbreak and urge citizens to remain calm.
"We have enough reagents to do the checking now, there are four laboratories in Nigeria that can test for this particular virus," Health Minister Emmanuel Osagie said. "We also have a system for sample transport, so samples can be taken from somewhere and transported to a testing center within a few hours. So that is part of the network that we have prepared."
The effort comes as officials confirmed the country's first case of the coronavirus. Nigerian health authorities say the patient is a man from Italy — a country hit hard by the virus — who works in Nigeria and returned from the Italian city of Milan to Nigeria's economic hub, Lagos, days ago.
This makes Nigeria the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to record a case of the virus, which is blamed for more than 2,800 deaths worldwide.
Health minister Osagie says they're working with airline officials to identify other passengers who may have had contact with the infected patient, in order to prevent further spread.
"We are going to get the manifest and then do a contact tracing and find all the people who were there." Osagie said. "Usually we get their numbers and addresses and monitor them. We are not going to assume that all of them are OK or will fall sick, but advise anyone who has any symptoms to report and be monitored."
The coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China, in December.
A recent assessment by the World Health Organization named Nigeria as one of 12 countries in Africa at high risk of the coronavirus threat, because of the high level of travel and trade between the West African country and China.
At an Abuja public briefing, WHO Health official Dr. Clement Peter, admitted that the coronavirus issue is serious and challenging to contain.
"Indeed globally, the sounding from WHO is very clear," he said. "We don't know how this outbreak is going to go. While things should be stabilizing in China gradually, many countries are getting cases that have no link to China."
The coronavirus has killed more than 2,800 people, and infected more than 83,000 in over 50 countries.
Nigerian health officials are hoping that no other cases turn up in Lagos, one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world.