A consultant in Infectious Diseases, Dr Iorhen Akase, has said increased public education on disease prevention is the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases.
Akase, of the Department of Medicine, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), spoke on Monday with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
He said public education was important in controlling epidemic, adding that preparedness should not just be about the hospitals and ministries of health.
“The public must be prepared as well. If members of the public are prepared and working together with the authorities, the task would be easy.
“If members of the public are not aware and properly educated on precautionary steps to take and are not reporting at health facilities, if they notice any symptoms, it would be a catastrophe if coronavirus comes into the country.
“Right now, the country is dealing with Lassa fever outbreaks in some states. We cannot afford to add coronavirus to it, because it would be overwhelming for our health system,” he said.
The consultant advised that sensitisation and awareness campaign should be high at the national, state, local and facility level to ensure that everyone was abreast with the symptoms and preventive measures to stay safe.
“As a country, the first area of preparedness is sensitisation of the populace on respiratory tract infections, like catarrh.
“Tell them to stay away from work for a few days and children should stay away from school, if they are infected with respiratory tract infections.
“When in public places, do not sneeze into your hands and shake people. Rather, sneeze into your elbows or use a tissue that you dispose properly and immediately.
“They should also ensure they wash their hands often,” he said.
Akase stressed the importance of being ready and alert while advising people to avoid practice that would endanger others.
NAN reports that the novel coronavirus (known as 2019-nCoV) was first reported in Wuhan City, China, on December 31, 2019, and has since been detected in ten other countries, including Thailand, Japan, France and the US.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as at January 26, 2020, there has been 2014 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV, and at least 56 people have died from the virus which is from the same family as SARS and the common cold.