You might be wondering, “how do I know if I have coronavirus?” The one sure way to know is to get tested. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and state health authorities are leading the testing efforts for across the country and are pushing to ensure that those who need it, get tested.

At present, there are seven laboratories in Nigeria carrying out the tests. The Federal Teaching Hospital in Abakaliki, has just been activated.

A further six new laboratories will be opened in the coming week in Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Jos and Port Harcourt with the capacity to diagnose COVID-19. There are ongoing efforts to increase the number of laboratories able to people.

So, if everyone is not getting tested, who can get tested?

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) just published an updated version of their case definition that outlines who at present is eligible for testing.

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The following criteria of people can get tested at present:

  • Anyone with a travel history outside Nigeria, who presents with a fever, cough or breathing difficulties within 14 days of arrival.
  • Anyone who has symptoms and is a contact with a confirmed case
  • Anyone with fever and either cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath in an area of high COVID-19 prevalence in Nigeria with no other explanation

Individuals who fall into these categories should contact the NCDC hotline on 080097000010 or their state hotline, which they will find on the state hotline directory published by the NCDC.

Once they contact the NCDC or their state hotline, while waiting to be tested, people should remain in self-isolation. Once the tests have been carried out, people should again remain in self-isolation until they receive their results.

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It is clear that testing capacity needs to be continuously scaled up in Nigeria. Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) are being sold as a means to offer people an alternative to the laboratory tests being carried out.

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It is understandable that people want to know if they have coronavirus or not.

The challenge with the RDTs according to Dr. Chinwe Ochu, Deputy Director Prevention, Programmes & Knowledge Management at the NCDC is that “they need to be validated through evaluation studies, using point estimates for sensitivity and specificity”.

So, it cannot be certain that the RDTs will provide users with reliable results.

There is therefore the concern that people who develop symptoms may use the RDTs in a bid to get a quick result, rather than having tests carried out at one of the molecular laboratories in the country, that uses the established Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique.

The best line of defence to avoid getting the virus is to obey the social distancing instructions and to stay indoors.

In addition, continuing to follow the public health advice given out. Handwashing frequently with water and soap, using an alcohol-based sanitizer when there is no water available and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or elbow.

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As people now have to spend more time indoors, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as door handles light switches, desks, keyboard and kitchen counters using a diluted bleach solution to eliminate any germs or pathogens is essential.

At this time of great anxiety, all Nigerians are called on to #TakeResponsibility to suppress the coronavirus and preventing its further spread.

We also have a duty of care to our fellow citizens in our community who may be particularly vulnerable at this time. It is important to reach out and support those who need help.

For accurate and verified information on COVID-19 in Nigeria, visit the NCDC website or call its hotline 080097000010.

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