- Title: Nigerian virus hunters in race to contain COVID-19 in Africa's giant
- Date: 14th July 2020
- Summary: LAGOS, NIGERIA, (RECENT) (REUTERS) FOLASADE FADARE AND HER TEAM OF CONTACT TRACERS ENTERING A BUS SIGNAGE ON BUS READING (English): "COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM, LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT" VARIOUS OF BUS ON THE ROAD VARIOUS OF CONTACT TRACERS COMING OUT OF A BUS AND WALKING INTO A COMPOUND VARIOUS OF CONTACT TRACING TEAM CHECKING THE TEMPERATURE OF A NURSE AND ADMONISHING HER (SOUNDBITE) (English) EPIDEMIOLOGIST, FOLASADE FADARE, SAYING: "At times, even when you have symptoms, the place is filled up and we are like please just stay in your house, we are looking out for space, once we get the space, we will come and pick you. So we have situations like that." PEOPLE'S FEET VARIOUS OF FOLASADE TALKING TO A COVID-19 CONTACT WHOSE FATHER DIED OF THE VIRUS (SOUNDBITE) (English) EPIDEMIOLOGIST, FOLASADE FADARE, SAYING: "Some don't give us their right address, some their phone numbers maybe knowingly or unknowingly because I don't really want to say people are dubious, we don't get to get across to them, so they are there, then some it is when they start calling out that oh, I travelled and I am now coughing, and I was told that if I have this symptom I should call the NCDC (Nigeria Centre for Disease Control), so that was how we started tracing some." VARIOUS OF VOLUNTEER DOCTOR FEMI ADEWUYI IN HIS STUDIO BROWSING THROUGH PHOTOS
- Embargoed: 28th July 2020 09:00
- Keywords: COVID-19 contact tracers disease hunters poor healthcare system rising COVID-19 infections
- Location: LAGOS, NIGERIA
- City: LAGOS, NIGERIA
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA001CMS65AV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Early one morning, Folasade Fadare and her team of four disease hunters piled into a van and headed for Ebutte-Metta, a neighbourhood in the old part of Lagos' mainland, filled with houses built during the colonial era.
They were on a mission to follow up with 49 COVID-19 cases for the day, amongst them a nurse who came in contact with a positive case, and a man whose father died of COVID-19.
The nurse is completing her 14 days in isolation today, even though her result was yet to come out.
She had not developed any symptoms, a situation that Fadare was really thankful for as finding space to keep people in isolation was becoming hard to access.
"At times, even when you have symptoms, the place is filled up and we are like please just stay in your house, we are looking out for space, once we get the space, we will come and pick you. So we have situations like that," said Fadare, an epidemiologist who has battled Ebola and Lassa Fever in a career spanning more than 20 years.
Contact tracers like Fadare are among the few safeguards standing between Africa's fragile public health systems and a devastating pandemic that could quickly overwhelm them.
Infections are rising, but many governments have been easing lockdowns because of the impact on their fragile economies and mostly poor population.
In Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, medics who do tracing say they are near breaking point.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19, have increased tenfold to over 32,000 since the government began easing restrictions in Lagos and the capital Abuja in early May, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Lagos, Nigeria's largest state and epicentre of its outbreak, has just 200 tracers for a population of 25 million.
That is fewer than one per 100,000 people, compared to around 14 per 100,000 in Turkey.
More than 12,400 cases have been confirmed in Lagos state alone - any one of whom may have infected scores of others, Fadare said.
A team of medics is supposed to visit each contact to determine if they have symptoms, identify their contacts and ask them to stay at home for 14 days.
The team then checks in with the person each day by phone, to monitor compliance.
If the person reports symptoms, they will be referred to another team for testing.
However, the stigma associated with COVID-19 means many people are keen to avoid tracers.
"Some don't give us their right address, some their phone numbers maybe knowingly or unknowingly because I don't really want to say people are dubious, we don't get to get across to them, so they are there, then some it is when they start calling out that oh, I traveled and I am now coughing, and I was told that if I have this symptom I should call the NCDC (Nigeria Centre for Disease Control), so that was how we started tracing some," said Fadare.
Femi Adewuyi sits in his studio, shaking his head in utter sadness as he stares at photos he took at the isolation centre, one of the photos show an unconscious man in an ambulance late at night who died the following morning even before his result that turned out positive came out.
The COVID-19 frontline fighter is a volunteer doctor at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba where confirmed cases are kept.
Adewuyi volunteered to document the activities in and around the centre because he understood the ethics of medical photography, but soon picked up his scrubs after the country's COVID cases spiraled in numbers.
But doing this means not seeing his wife and son as often as he would have loved to.
"I usually just put a mattress on the floor and come to sleep in the office, and shower and go back to work. Occasionally like twice a week, I freshen up here and change into fresh clothes before I go home. So it's been a delicate balance doing my work and also being a family man," says Adewuyi.
Meanwhile life goes on as normal with parked buses weaving through the streets and people not keeping their distance.
"The truth is that we are all at risk now, especially with this lockdown out of the place, that is why we have to use face mask," Fadare says as she fears that people do not realize the danger in the air.
But for Fadare and Adewuyi, they still have to do their jobs, no matter how risky it gets.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None