From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, has expressed concern that at least 75 health workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last one week.
The NCDC boss disclosed this on Monday in Abuja at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF).
According to him, the number of health workers getting infected is becoming worrisome, noting that efforts are ongoing to ensure health workers are actively protected against the virus.
‘Firstly, I’ll like to address the increasing number of COVID-19 cases among healthcare workers themselves,’ he stated.
‘In the last one week, 75 healthcare workers were infected.
‘But we can reduce this risk. For healthcare workers, please maintain a high index of suspicion at all times. We need you alive and well. This means that you should suspect COVID-19 in every case you meet until ruled out. Even when ruled out, there is still a small risk of infection.
‘We are rolling out the use of Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits (RDTs), in more health facilities over the next one month, as an additional tool to protect healthcare workers. We remain deeply grateful for the efforts and commitment of healthcare workers across the country,’ the NCDC DG said.
Ihekweazu said that last week the country recorded 27 deaths in a single day.
‘Every death recorded is a tragic occurrence and our health workers are working extremely hard to prevent these. Everything we think and do in terms of the response, is focused on trying to save lives,’ he noted.
Ihekweazu said that the agency has started training health workers in five health facilities in FCT on the use of RDTs in health care settings and would soon be in all Federal Hospitals.
‘All five health facilities in the FCT have begun using these RDTs to test healthcare workers who are exposed, and patients who require surgery or specialised care. With this, we can reduce the risk of infection in health facilities which is a challenge.
‘Any State Government, Hospital, Corporate that wants to discuss the use of RDTs, how, which ones, when please look the guidance is on website ncdc.gov.ng. If you need support drop us an email an [email protected] and we will get back to you,’ he urged.
The NCDC boss stressed that there is a need for doctors and nurses to be on the alert on suspicion COVID-19 case.
‘Over the past weeks, we have had several reports from patients that have been managed for days, sometimes weeks without thought being given to a COVID test.
‘Colleagues we need to significantly raise our alert levels to symptoms that patients present with. COVID-19 should be ruled out first for patients with pneumonia symptoms, congested chest, fever, body pains even vague symptoms.
‘Please, stay safe. A case with fever and fatigue could be COVID-19. It is important to ensure patients are tested for COVID-19 and appropriate personal protective equipment are used by healthcare workers,’ he explained.
He urged the health workers to model the behaviours they would like to see in others.
‘We must all work together to achieve a common goal. Be a leader and champion setting the example in your social circles. It not just by saying, it is also by doing.
‘Show people you wear a mask when visiting, reinforce the public health measures (in your homes and other settings). Model the behaviour you want to see in others,’ he advised.
Barely a month ago, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) announced the deaths of 20 doctors within a week from complications arising from coronavirus, a news President Muhammadu Buhari described as ‘sad’.
Health workers are often at risk of exposure to infections, including COVID-19 as they are the first responders to patients.
Although health workers have been advised to use full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before attending to patients, many do not have access to this equipment and as a result, many health workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Nigeria.
As of June 2020, at least 812 health workers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Nigerian health minister Osagie Ehanire.
As of September 2020, over 41, 000 health workers in Africa have been infected with COVID-19 virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
The exact number of health workers that have been infected in Nigeria so far cannot be ascertained as of the time of reporting.