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Coronavirus, Lassa: Experts alert on harmful biological agents

By Gbenga Akinfenwa 
09 February 2020   |   3:06 am
To contain the threat posed by the Coronavirus and Lassa fever scourge, experts have alerted Nigerians on the dangers of harmful biological agents

• Don’t Expose Food During Processing —Fasoyiro
• Protective Measures Are Essential — NBMA

To contain the threat posed by the Coronavirus and Lassa fever scourge, experts have alerted Nigerians on the dangers of harmful biological agents, especially in food and crops.

The caution is coming on the heels of reports that most of the emerging dangerous pathogens responsible for the diseases are kind of zoonotic infections, which comes from the food chain and environment to infect people.

Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba, enjoined Nigerians to be vigilant and take necessary protective measures, such as thorough cooking of all foods, storing of foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers, avoiding contact with rats, blocking of rats’ hideouts and thorough washing of hands after contact with a sick person.

While listing symptoms of Lassa fever to include-fever, headache, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and severe cases of bleeding from the mouth and other body openings, Ebegba said the agency is working with line ministries, departments and agencies to ensure that every harmful biological agent is contained and eliminated.

He also urged Nigerians not to panic as the Federal Government is doing all within its power to ensure that the deadly coronavirus is not allowed into the country.

“The just-concluded consultative meeting with stakeholders has given the agency a good leeway in ensuring a very robust biosecurity emergency response strategy and policy.

“We are happy with the level of willingness by sister agencies to collaborate with the NBMA in ensuring that harmful biological agents are adequately contained to avoid harm to humans and the environment, we are working on and will come out with a comprehensive National biosecurity emergency response strategy and policy that will check biological agents and ensure that they are adequately contained,” he said.

An Associate Professor at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Subuola Fasoyiro advised on good hygienic practices, which she described as the best method to steer clear of contacting the diseases.

“Normally, we can have two different rodents that can actually be carriers of these diseases. Others are rats, flies, birds, and others that can cause different biological hazards to food. For instance, in many places foods are exposed during processing and flies carry microorganisms, especially from feces into the food and that can really cause serious health problems, as it may lead to food contamination.

“The same thing goes to people that dry Agric produces like cassava flour, garri, fufu, and others on the road side. The foods are exposed to dust and other harmful biological agents that can easily bring diseases. The best option is prevention, which is the adoption of good hygiene.”