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Behind cholera resurgence amid waning COVID-19



RECENTLY, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed that over 42 new cases of cholera were detected in the country in two weeks from December 31, 2022, to January 13, 2023.

The cases were recorded in Lagos, Edo, Kano, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Plateau states, and the Federal Capital Territory.

Giving a breakdown, the nation’s lead agency in combattng infectious diseases said 13 new cases are reported from two states – Lagos (12) and Edo (one), while 29 new cases were reported from six states, comprising Lagos (15), FCT (5), Kano (four), Nasarawa (three), Kaduna (one), and Plateau (one).

In a more frightening twist, United Nations warned that there is looming epidemic of cholera in about 43 countries, mostly comprising low income earners.

This is coming amid continuous global waning of COVID-19 pandemic which so far, according to NCDC, Nigeria has recorded 266,492 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections, recording 3,155 deaths, with 259,858 cases discharged across 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

As of January 10, 2023, no fewer than 64,094,511 of the total eligible population targeted for COVID-19 vaccination have been fully vaccinated. This proportion represents 55.5 per cent of the target population, which is far short of the 70 percent threshold set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Perhaps many Nigerians would be surprised to hear about the new cases of COVID infections in Nigeria, because for a while now, public communication about the pandemic had almost died out, and most people and organisations, including even medical facilities, had jettisoned, or relaxed observance, of the COVID-19 protocols which were in place to contain the spread of the pandemic.

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Though the outbreak of the COVID-19 is traced to 2019, the disease reached a pandemic status in 2020, afflicting hundreds of millions across the world and leading to the millions of deaths, with India, United States of America, Brazil, Italy, Russia, Mexico, Britain, Germany and China, where the disease was first detected in the city of Wuhan, among the worst hit. World-wide,  the pandemic has afflicted more than 661 million people and caused over 6.9 miilion deaths.

To push back against the pandemic, most countries of the world started with travel restrictions before moving to partial and, sometimes, total lockdown of socioeconomic activities in while safety measures like social and physical distancing and use of personal protective equipment like hand sanitisers, face abd nose masks, and others were promoted in populations across the world as scientists fast-tracked efforts to manufacture vaccines.

The coming of vaccines helped a great deal to roll back the scale of devastation of the pandemic across the world, though vaccine hesitancy, due to conspiracy theories, ensured that many people opted to avoid the vaccines, raising the concern that they could become a clog in effort to eradicate the pandemic through achieving herd immunity. And despite vaccines being available and free of charge till today, not many people are turning up to get tested and vaccinated.

Over the last one year, most socio-economic activities have fully picked up in most parts of the world, and COVID-19 was no longer the topmost matter of concern; however, the recent resurgence of the pandemic in China is always going to be a threat to the entire world, especially considering the global influence of China to the world’s economy.

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According to reports, after China had recently reversed its zero-COVID-19 policy restrictions, hospitals in major Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong have filled out with COVID-19 patients. It is believed that up to 250 million people the world’s most populous nation were infected in the first three weeks of December 2022. Some reports estimate that the disease infects one million and kills 5,000 people in China every day.

With China removing all restrictions for foreign travellers, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and many countries, including Nigeria, are worried that the disease could spread again and become a major global issue, like it was in 2020 and 2021. The world body has, consequently, encouraged the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment. Hence, many are concerned that Nigerian authorities have not scaled up counter-measures to contain this threat to the health and wellbeing of her citizens. And judging by the increasing role China and Chinese businessmen are playing in the Nigerian economy; the country could be exposed to the spike in infections from travellers from the country and others.  While Nigeria may not ban flights from China, however, all passengers from the country and others experiencing the fourth wave of the pandemic should be thoroughly tested before being allowed to enter the country.

For a country like Nigeria with weak health system, preventing the re-infection of the populace is a better approach than trying to contain the disease. Nigeria was lucky not to record the scale of devastation that other countries suffered, however, with a disease like COVID-19 that keeps mutating, a more virulent form could occur that will be deadlier for Nigerians. This is why federal and state governments to revive the various COVID-19 containment task force units and energise them to resume the campaign against the pandemic which had tailed off in the past several months. They need to begin aggressive awareness campaigns, testing and administering of vaccines against the disease to protect the populace from another health emergency as experienced during the peak of the pandemic.

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Finally, Nigerians should return to the safety measures they adopted during the peak of the pandemic in order not to fall victim of the virus.

  Dr. Sheriff is a veteran communications expert and media administrator.

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