Nigeria has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus, according to a statement from the Federal Health Ministry issued early Friday morning.
The patient was identified in Lagos State, a coastal area along the Gulf of Guinea, said health minister Osagie Ehanire. It is home to the city of Lagos, the largest city in Africa with a population of some 21 million people.
The Nigerian health ministry said the patient is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan on February 25. He is being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba. The ministry plans a press conference at its Abuja headquarters on Friday, but assured Nigerians it is already working to trace contacts of the patient.
The case in West Africa is the third on the continent, after Algerian health minister Abderrahmane Benbouzid confirmed earlier this week that an Italian citizen who arrived on February 17 had tested positive and was placed in isolation. Egyptian officials previously confirmed a case in Cairo.
The Nigerian case comes as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread from Asia into many new nations across Europe and the Middle East, with Brazil announcing the first case on the South American continent. Canada and the United States also continue to report new cases, while Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran remain among the hardest hit.
The virus is now present in 46 countries, according to a World Health Organization update on Thursday. That’s outside of China, where the outbreak began and has claimed at least 2,747 lives.
“For the past two days, the number of new cases reported in the rest of the world has exceeded the number of new cases in China,” said WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a briefing Thursday.
“Every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster, the first evidence of community transmission and for dealing with sustained community transmission. And it must be preparing for all of those scenarios at the same time.”
Image: University of Hong Kong file