‘Misinformation, fake news remain major setback to effectively tackle COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria’
Adaku Efuribe is a clinic pharmacist and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) advocate, she has been in the fore front of advocating for better healthcare systems for all Nigerians, and she is also a global health and wellbeing consultant who has dedicated her time in offering public health enlightenment to all Nigerians on the COVID-19 outbreak. In this interview with Anthonia Obokoh, she speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria and answers some burning questions while offering useful advice to all Nigerians.
What do you have to say about the government efforts so far to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, are there any loopholes?
I have observed with keen interest the efforts the Nigerian Government has put in place to safeguard and protect the lives of all Nigerians and this is highly commendable.
We have to consider our unique issues if we are introducing work from home and stay at home strategies, we need to consider that we do not have 24-hour electricity supply in Nigeria. Most homes do not have tap water; they have to buy water in cans and they have to leave their homes to do this. Petty traders and self-employed artisans depend on their daily income to make money to pay for basic necessities like food, rent, medicines etc.
So, if we are ordering a stay at home and lockdown like the UK or US we must understand, the UK has a financial care package in place for people, who do not have income,
This is the time for us to ensure we fix the epileptic electricity supply in Nigeria. Other African countries like Ghana have gone ahead to improve power supply, Nigeria is lagging behind massively.
What has been the major drawback in the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria?
I would say misinformation and fake news has caused a lot of issues, as people believe anything they read on the internet. One important thing we should all do is to avoid rumour mongering.
With so much misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic on social media, we should always endeavour to sieve out the chaff from the wheat. Few weeks ago, we had the challenge of reaching out to people living in remote parts of Nigeria, those who don’t have access to internet, social media and those who can’t understand English language. I suggested we interpret preventive measures in different Nigerian languages and make use of town cries, radio stations among others to ensure everyone is well informed about the COVID-19 pandemic. I went ahead to lead by example, I interpreted COVID19 preventive measures in Igbo Language, I also made a video in Igbo. Today, we have another challenge in our hands; to educate the learned and literate who have been misinformed.
From your assessment, are there any areas of improvement in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic
Well, the healthcare sector in Nigeria needs massive improvement. The Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been on the forefront of leading and communicating vital information to the general public on COVID-19 pandemic, however we need more isolation centres and well-equipped hospitals to cater for the healthcare needs of the populace. We also need more healthcare professionals /volunteers and emergency centres fitted with enough ventilators.
We have to focus on informing people about the preventive measures and the importance of self-isolation, travel restrictions and staying at home.
We also need to improve our database, data and information is vital. We need data to ascertain the true situation of the pandemic in Nigeria as per the number of people who are infected, in self-isolation, recovered or deceased. This would help us develop strategies to battle the pandemic as well as help us deploy medical resources effectively to people and places they are needed most.
Information is very key in the sense that everyone needs to be well informed of preventive measures and travel restrictions. There are so many dubious websites, myths and fake news accessible online and this poses a lot of risks as people could be misinformed, so the Ministry of Health and NCDC are continually updating their websites with public health information which is very important.
What lessons do we have to learn from China, Iran and Italy?
These countries have battled very high cases of COVID-19. One thing we could learn is the quick deployment of frontline medical personnel, social distancing and travel restrictions.
We can also see that from the recorded number of deaths from these countries that the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious health concern and we don’t have to relent on our efforts to contain the spread in Nigeria. We have to continue to re-enforce preventive measures, travel restrictions, social distancing etc.
Are there any potential health risks from 5G and is there a link between 5G and COVID-19
According to the WHO, to date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies. Health-related conclusions are drawn from studies performed across the entire radio spectrum but, so far, only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G.
WHO is conducting a health risk assessment from exposure to radiofrequencies, covering the entire radiofrequency range, including 5G, to be published by 2022.WHO will review scientific evidence related to potential health risks from 5G exposure as the new technology is deployed and as more public health-related data become available.
Is there any medication that can prevent or cure COVID 19 infection?
According to WHO, at the moment ‘No pharmaceutical products have yet been shown to be safe and effective for the treatment of COVID-19. However, a number of medicines have been suggested as potential investigational therapies, many of which are now being or will soon be studied in clinical trials, including the SOLIDARITY trial co-sponsored by WHO and participating countries’.
How about Chloroquine?
World Health Organization (WHO) has NOT approved the use of chloroquine for #COVID19 management. Scientists are working hard to confirm the safety of several drugs for this disease.
If early results from an unproven or experimental treatment are promising, the treatment should be studied in the context of a formal clinical trial to establish its safety, efficacy, risks, and benefits’.
My candid advice to all is- do not engage in chloroquine self-medication. This could lead to side effects or even death.
What do you advise about the use of herbal remedies to cure coronavirus infection? Do they work?
I have seen a few publications and videos on social media, asking people to use herbal products to protect themselves from COVID 19.At the moment, there is no evidence to ascertain the effectiveness of any herb against COVID-19. I am an ‘herbalist’, Ialso have a good stock of local Nigerian herbs, but it’s highly important to double check before using large quantities of herbs. People should always talk to their pharmacist or doctor, some of these herbs could interact with your medication
Special precaution always for immunocompromised patients, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, people with Chronic disease conditions, children and the elderly.
Are smokers and tobacco users at higher risk of COVID-19 infection?
Evidence has shown that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth. Smokers may also already have lung disease like COPD or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase risk of serious illness.
Smoking products such as ‘shisha’ often involve the sharing of mouth pieces, which could enhance the transmission of COVID-19.
What is your final advice to all Nigerians?
My advice to all Nigerians: Adhere to the guidelines set by the government, observing social distancing, wash your hands regularly with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and bin the tissue immediately, use alcohol-based hand gel, protect your health, look after yourself, do what you can to stay safe and listen to the health experts.Together we would flatten the curve and contain the spread of COVID-19.