Italian Citizen Returns to Nigeria for Work, Becomes First Reported Case of Coronavirus in Sub-Saharan Africa

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The deadly coronavirus had touched nearly every continent withNigeria announcing Friday its first confirmed case of the highly transmissible pathogen.

It’s also the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, in sub-Saharan Africa, according to international outlet France 24.

“The case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and had returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos, Nigeria on the 25th of February 2020,” Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said in a statement posted to Twitter.

In recent weeks, there’s been a “concerning” uptick in cases of the illness across Italy, Iran and South Korea.

Nigerian officials said the patient is in stable condition and has shown no serious symptoms. The patient remains hospitalized and under monitoring at the Mainland Hospital, formerly Infectious Disease Hospital, in Yaba, Lagos.

The virus, which first appeared in the populous city of Wuhan, China last year, can cause mild to severe respiratory illness that includes fever, cough and shortness of breath. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of COVID-19 can appear two to 14 days after initial exposure.

The illness has claimed the lives of more than 2,800 people worldwide (the vast majority of those in China), and has sickened more than 80,000 people in just a matter of months, according to Business Insider.

Before Nigeria, only two cases of the disease had been reported on the African continent, in Algeria and Egypt. A student from Cameroon who contracted the virus while living in Zhengzhou, capital of China’s Henan Province, refused to return to his home county for fear of spreading the potentially deadly pathogen. He was later cured of the virus.

“No matter what happens I don’t want to take the sickness back to Africa,” Kem Senou Pavel Daryl, 21, told BBC News.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged folks across the world to be prepared “for a potential pandemic” as the virus continues to spread at a rapid rate. Officials also underscored the fact that African health systems are ill-equipped to handle the threat posed by the coronavirus outbreak.

“No country should assume it won’t get cases,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters this week. “That could be a fatal mistake, and quite literally.”

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