First Sub-Saharan African Coronavirus Case Confirmed In Nigeria

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
An Italian man is being treated at a hospital for infectious diseases in Lagos, Nigeria as the first confirmed coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa. A man wearing a face mask walks at the Yaba Mainland hospital where an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on Tuesday from Milan on a business trip, the first case of the COVID-19 virus is being treated in Lagos Nigeria Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Image: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba

Sub-Saharan Africa has its first confirmed case of coronavirus after an Italian man in Nigeria tested positive for the disease.

On Feb. 28, the coronavirus diagnosis was confirmed for an Italian citizen working in Lagos who returned to Nigeria from Milan a few days earlier, according to the BBC.

Nigerian health officials said that the man is stable with no serious symptoms and is being treated at a hospital for infectious diseases in Lagos.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country — population, 195 million — and Lagos has a population of 21 million people.

The Nigerian case is the first confirmed instance of the coronavirus infection in sub-Saharan Africa following the initial outbreak in December in the city of Wuhan, China.

The coronavirus has spread rapidly since the end of 2019 and is present in more than 60 countries. There are now more than 89,000 confirmed cases and in excess of 3,000 deaths globally as a result of the airborne virus.

The majority of cases and deaths have been recorded in mainland China.

On Feb. 14, Egypt became the first African country to confirm a coronavirus case. The infected individual is a Chinese national visiting Egyptian and he has been kept in hospital isolation since his confirmed diagnosis, according to Egypt’s health ministry. A second case was confirmed in Algeria a few days later.

The Italian patient in Lagos was screened when he arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and did not show any symptoms of the virus, AlJazeera reported.

Follow-up testing confirmed that he had contracted coronavirus.

The low number of confirmed cases so far across Africa, which has close economic ties with China, has puzzled health specialists, according to France24.

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Global health officials and researchers are concerned that coronavirus cases might be going undetected in some countries that are considered at high risk of an outbreak but are reporting fewer cases than expected, or none at all, according to VOA.

Experts are particularly concerned about countries with weaker healthcare systems in southeast Asia and Africa, which they say could quickly be overwhelmed by a local outbreak.