Sola Ojo, Kaduna

The novel Coronavirus pandemic appears alien to many doubting  Nigerians even in the face of the  surge in the global and Nigeria cases despite the protocols put in place by the World Health Organization (WHO) and local authorities to contain it. 

Just like what the world saw at the advent of HIV/AIDS, many doubting Thomases will not be that lucky to tell their denial stories.

From Zaria to Kaduna to Kafanchan, compliance to safety guidelines is nothing to write home about. Symptoms of the virus (fever, cough, tiredness, shortness of breath, vomiting and diarrhea) and testimonies of affected, treated and discharges persons along these symptoms revealed that COVID-19 is real.

As at Monday, July 20, 2020, Nigeria has tested 212,201 samples, confirmed 36,663 with active cases standing at 20,769 and discharged cases at 15,105 while 789 COVID-19 related deaths are recorded.

In Kaduna State within the same period, we have 1,156 laboratories confirmed cases, 287 on admission, 850 survivors discharged and 12 deaths.

The survivors speak

Jeremiah Chatjok is a medical doctor who survived COVID-19 he contracted in the line of duty at a teaching hospital in Kaduna.

“I cannot really recall how I was infected because I work at accident and emergency unit at Barrau Dikko Teaching hospital here in Kaduna where I attend to all manners of accident victims. There was lockdown in the state, but people were travelling and as a result, we continued receiving accident victims. It is important to add that, even when we attend to them, we use our face masks and hand gloves. So, I cannot say the particular patient because all that matter to us was how to save their lives.

“On a Friday, I started feeling feverish and I thought it was malaria. I was getting weak. So, I went to get some drugs at a nearby pharmaceutical store which I took for three days, but the symptom persisted. After that, I also used intra-vein method to treat it. For three days, it didn’t go. I was not thinking it could be COVID-19. At a point in time, I went to the kitchen to prepare noodles because I was alone in the house. I added curry powder, but I could not perceive the smell. I went to two bathrooms to smell different bathing soaps, no way, I had lost my sense of smell and then cough set in. At this point, I suspected COVID-19. That was how I contacted the response team who came to my house to take my sample.

“My encounter with people after I was discharged was not encouraging. Many don’t still feel serious about it. For example, I took a tricycle with my face mask and hand sanitizer readily in my pocket. A man that was sitting at the back seat started making jest of my face mask and said, there was no COVID-19 that I should remove it. I looked at him eyeball to eyeball and shared my personal experience with him. He was terrified, but I was able to calm him and cleared his denial of the existence of the virus in Kaduna”.

Another survivor, Hajiya Juwairiyya Muhammed, 38, who works with a private health facility in Kaduna North Local Government Area of the state though an indigene of Kogi State, testified to the reality of COVID-19 in Nigeria, calling on all to join hands with the authorities on COVID-19 as a collective strategy to deal decisively with the virus.

“I have spent seven days in this isolation and I am now being discharged to go home. It was never a death sentence at all. It does not frighten the way some thought. It is not a death sentence at all and I’m telling people to help themselves by taking preventive measures seriously”, she said.

Also 23-year-old Shukuriya Zakariyya, an health worker with a private clinic in Kinkino, Barnawa, Kaduna South Local Government Area of Kaduna State was among some educated people who did not believe COVID-19 was real until she had personal encounter with the virus, which did not only change her perception, but made her to become an advocate.

“Before I was brought here, I did not believe there is COVID-19. But now, I believe. We thought it has been lying all along. This was because I was not coughing or sneezing or having difficulty in breathing. Today, after I have spent seven days and with what I saw, I now believe. I am grateful to God that I am okay. They attend to us very well. We were told not to be afraid and really, I am not afraid and that is my take home from here.

“We have to keep to regular washing of our hands, using face mask and avoid crowd as much as we can. That is what I am taking away from here back to my community. I am now going as an advocate of preventive measures. I want to tell people that, the virus is real and as much we are praying to the Almighty Allah to take it away, we should not forget to play our own role too”, she said.

And 21-year-old farmer, Abdulganiyu Lawal from Zango, Kudan Local Government Area of the state, said, he was among those that were tested for COVID-19 by mobile testers in his local government.

He said that contrary to his earlier misinformation that COVID-19 was a big man’s disease, he now believes that it is real.

“There is COVID-19 in Nigeria and it is not a big man’s issue as some of us thought.I remembered three men came to talk to us about agriculture in my town and that was how I got infected.

“I was initially diagnosed of malaria. But, after treating it for four days without any improvement, another test was conducted and I was told it was COVID-19. But before then, I did not believe there is COVID-19 until when I went for the result of the test I did earlier. Now, I have been treated here at Hamdala Motel centre. I will be coming for checkups as advised while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines’’, he promised.

As far as this 27-year-old housewife, Aisha Umar from Kudan is concerned, how she got infected with COVID-19 remain a misery.

“I don’t know how I came in contact with the person that infected me. I am a full-time housewife. I only go to market once a while to pick a few things.

“Funny enough, when some medical team came around to conduct the test in Kudan, I was discovered to be positive. They tested both my husband and I. But my husband tested negative, while I tested positive and that was how I was brought to Kaduna and isolated for days. But now, by the grace of God, I have been treated and I am now confirmed negative and discharged.

“Again, this is not a lie. One can contact the virus without even knowing she/he has been infected. The virus is affecting the elderly more, but if they are detected early enough it becomes easier to treat. Because, we are younger, and we don’t have underlying ailments, our treatment was easier. Thank God, I have been given drugs and I am now good to go home. But I will come back for checkup later”, she said.

Sunday Sun met Santiong Douglas, a young man in his late 20s in his isolation room at approved treatment facility in Kaduna where he narrated his COVID-19 experience four days into receiving treatment.

“This is my fourth day and I am feeling better. I am surviving COVID-19. This virus is actually real. Many people are still in doubt that this virus is not real or it is political and all that. But I am telling you now that the virus is real. I am a living witness. I have the symptoms we have heard so much about from the WHO – coughing, sneezing and difficulty in breathing. In some cases, depending on our anatomy, victims or survivors may experience different symptoms. I actually experienced those three symptoms I mentioned.”

Dr Oyefabi Adegboyega Moses is a Consultant, Public Health Physician, Kaduna State University Teaching Hospital, Barrau Dikko and Team Lead, Infectious Disease Control Centre, Kaduna.

He said: “I have had situations where I met with several educated people, some are even health workers, asking, do you think this thing is real? My answer is to invite them to Hamdala alternative isolation centre, come to Kakuri Infectious Disease Control Centre, go to Ahmadu Bello University teaching Hospital in Zaria where we are managing patients or the one recently opened in Kafanchan. Then, you will see that there are patients on admission, there are patients on drugs and there are some patients who are managing at home.

“Kaduna is operating on nine pillars to fight this infection which are surveillance and epidemiology, the laboratory service pillar, the point of entry, infection transmission and control, case management, risk, communication, logistics and supply, coordination and research. When we get a call, we take it as a rumour. Then our surveillance team will go and investigate it which is a guideline from NCDC.

“In January 2020, as President Donald Trump dismissed and mocked warnings about COVID-19 killing people faraway in China, native American leaders were taking the deadly threat seriously. Though they were right and encouraged their people to comply with prescribed safety guidelines, the virus eventually killed more than 500,000 Americans despite America’s medical prowess.

“The point is, there is a serious problem in the community and that is disbelief. Disbelief is making people to be careless – not adhering to the rules of face mask, social distancing, hand hygiene. If people don’t change this attitude, the figure will keep rising.

“In March, Kaduna had only one case. Between April, May June and July, Kaduna had over a thousand cases. As it is, those communities where people don’t respect the simple COVID-19 rules at all must have a change of attitude before the situation gets out of hand because a stitch in time saves millions.”

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