In late March, Mr Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo State, had announced via his Twitter account that he was coronavirus positive: “I just received my COVID-19 confirmation test result. It is positive. I am asymptomatic and will continue to self-isolate.” He appointed Prof. Temitope Alonge (a former chief medical director of the University College Hospital) as acting chairman of the state’s COVID-19 task force. Amid the prayers for a quick recovery by indigenes of Oyo state and well-meaning Nigerians, there were speculations about how he contracted the virus. In certain quarters it was alleged that the governor contracted the deadly virus at a mega political rally in Ibadan (capital of Oyo state) which he attended a few days earlier. Mr Taiwo Adisa, his media aide, was quick to debunk the allegation as baseless. On the insistence that there was no known COVID-19 case in the state at the time, he suggested that his principal might have gotten the virus at a meeting of the National Economic Council that was held in Abuja (capital of Nigeria) just after the rally. All the state governors that attended were advised to self-isolate and undergo COVID test after one of the attendees tested positive to the virus.
Origins and blames
Accusations are rife after the virus went global. President Trump has accused China of withholding vital information about the veracity of the situation in Wuhan city where the deviant pathogen originated. China has, however, rejected such claim, saying it had handled the situation in a transparent manner. Further to this, Mr Trump has called the World Health Organization a puppet of China blaming it for not alerting the world of the imminent dangers of the virus in good time which could have saved many lives. In Nigeria, critics had blamed the federal government for not closing the nation’s ports in time to avert the importation of the virus. In fact, on his return from a trip abroad, the deputy senate leader Ajayi Borofice had lamented the failure of officials at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport to screen arriving passengers at a time the coronavirus had started to take heavy tolls on human lives in other parts of the world.
It was after Nigeria recorded its first index case that stringent measures were instituted at the airports. In March the nation closed its airports to international flights after imposing a travel ban on flights from the U.S., U.K and 11 other countries thought to be high-risk countries. These measures were likened to closing the doors after the thief has entered the house. Across states of the Nigerian federation, lockdown restrictions were imposed. This was to slow down the pace of transmission as well as to prepare the ailing health sector in terms of setting up molecular labs, isolation centres, procuring the much-needed supplies of Personal Preventive Equipment, reagents, ventilators, and so on. Unfortunately, the virus has escaped into the local communities from where it is spreading like wildfire as daily updates by the Nigerian Center for Disease Control has shown.
Weighing the possibilities
Will Gov. Makinde survive the virulent coronavirus?
Will he come of it alive?
Those were the pertinent questions that agitated the minds of many Nigerians. There was palpable fear in the land as contracting COVID-19 was equated to a death sentence that was almost inescapable. At the time images of the sufferings, pains and deaths arising from coronavirus filled traditional and new media spaces. In Italy, Spain, Britain, the U.S., among other countries, the virus had caused incalculable damage. Infection rates and the concomitant deaths were getting out of control with the passage of each day. Frontline health workers were struggling to cope with the rising numbers of patients in their facilities especially ones that require hospitalization. Intensive Care Units were filled up with patients placed on ventilators and Extra-Corporal Membrane Oxygenation to keep them alive. Most mortuaries were overfilled with corpses. In certain times grave diggers were getting exhausted (and traumatized) from digging hundreds of graves by the days and weeks. Graveyards had exceeded their capacities. Some medical analysts projected that Africa could become the next epicentre. Officials of WHO were concerned that should African countries experience such waves of transmission their health workers could become overwhelmed in no time. Their weak health infrastructure would collapse invariably.
A week into his self-isolation, Mr Makinde had fully recovered. The result of the COVID tests carried out on his samples came out negative. “I am deeply moved by your prayers and support throughout this period” tweeted the governor in early April. Upon resuming work at the Government House in Agodi, he’d pledged to combat the scourge of the virus in his state. While there are no curative drugs or preventive vaccines for COVID-19 at this time (in fact WHO has suspended the trial of hydroxychloroquine after a new study found out it causes serious heart rhythm problems in patients), knowing how the governor survived the ordeal will help to instil hope in the masses. It will demonstrate to doubters that COVID-19 is real. It is surmountable.
Positive outlook: Once he was diagnosed as coronavirus positive, Mr Makinde did not allow fear to envelop his being. He quickly took to Twitter and Facebook to inform the public of his status unashamed. (It has come to public knowledge that, for fear of shame and stigmatization, some victims of coronavirus would rather stay in their homes, resort to self-medication in their quest to get well, than seek medical attention from the appropriate health quarters). On recovering, the governor had gone on to allay the manifest fears of the public. He’d asked people not to fret that just as he was able to get the virus out of his system so will it be for the majority of them. It should be stated here that apprehension and panic could increase the risk of stress and depression. It could, by and large, result in hypertension which, in turn, could affect the ability of the immune system to respond to bacterial and viral infections.
The main symptoms of COVID-19 are high fever (with temperatures at 37.8o C and above), continuous dry cough (sometimes with sputum or mucus) and shortness of breath. Some people may have headache, body ache, muscle pain, sore throat, loss of taste and smell, etc. However, based on currently available information, some victims may be asymptomatic, in effect may not exhibit any symptoms even though they may be able to transmit the virus. Others may have mild or moderate symptoms while very few may become severely ill. Though asymptomatic, the governor received palliative treatment. In a telephone interview with Fresh FM after his recovery, he’d revealed: “My very good friend and brother, Dr Muyideen Olatunji, is the one in charge of the Primary Healthcare for Oyo State. He came to me and said, look, I am going to send to you this black seed oil, it boosts immunity.” Mixing the black seed oil with honey, the governor took one teaspoon in the morning and one in the evening. The health benefits of black seed oil are clear. It has antioxidant properties that can help to relieve inflammation inside the body. It has shown great promise in reducing high blood pressure, cholesterol level, as well as reducing asthma, among other ailments. Honey is also rich in antioxidants that can help to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and certain types of cancer.
Mr Makinde ate plenty of amala (yam flour that is made from dried yam peel). It is usually served with ewedu, stew, or gbegiri soup. Another COVID-19 survivor Prof. Jesse Otegbayo (a consultant gastroenterologist and current chief medical director of the University College Hospital Ibadan) also said he ate amala and ewedu soup for coronavirus. A careful look at the nutritional benefits of amala shows that it is low in calorie and contains dietary fibre which is helpful in reducing the risk of colon cancer. Ewedu soup (with ewedu leaf, locust beans, water, crayfish, as ingredients) and stew (with tomato, pepper, palm oil, water as ingredients) contain antioxidants that help to mop up pro-oxidants that cause lung cancer. With a low glycemic index, this delicacy (which is common among the Yoruba people of Nigeria) proves to be effective in managing diabetes. Eating healthy natural foods (especially balanced diets) does help to boost the immunity of the human body. Fruits and vegetables also play vital roles. Prof. Otegbayo, another COVID survivor, said he ate a lot of banana, pawpaw, and drank lemon juice, to supplement the processed Vitamin C that he ingested, while in self-isolation. It is generally acknowledged that the anti-oxidizing properties of these natural fruits can help to tackle free radicals which cause oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
Mr Makinde had lost a bit of weight during his self-isolation which he thought was good. Uncontrolled weight gain (or obesity) predisposes a person to high blood pressure (hypertension). From currently available information coronavirus victims with co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, heart ailments, lung disease, etc are at greater risks of severe illness and death.
Good rest and sleep:
The typical work schedules of a state governor are tight and hectic. In overseeing the affairs of the state, he holds regular meetings with members of his cabinets, with the council of traditional rulers, investors, officials of federal agencies, multilateral organizations, development partners, NGOs, civil society groups, etc, with regards to policy issues, and supervises certain projects to ensure that they are well implemented. He also attends to urgent matters that have implications for the peace and security of the state. This often translates into working late into the night most of the time. During his self-isolation, Mr. Makinde had plenty of time to rest. When the workload is reduced, immunity gets stronger. Said the governor “When you are in isolation the tendency is to watch television and eat [is there]….it has also been a period to reflect and look at [our] programs, policies …and…how COVID-19 is going to affect us socially and economically.” With enough rest and sleep the human body can properly recuperate, in effect repair the damages that are caused by stress, ultraviolet rays, traumas, mental fatigue and physical exhaustion.
Water (fluid intake):
I should add that taking an adequate amount of water is important. The human body itself is composed of 60 per cent water. Water hydrates the body, regulates body temperature, aids digestion and loss of weight, flushes body waste, as well as maintains blood pressure. Furthermore, it prevents damage to the kidney. Taking sugary drinks (especially sugary soda drinks in place of water can be detrimental to health as they are strongly linked to weight gain, turn sugar into fat in the liver, may cause insulin resistance which may lead to Type 2 diabetes, heighten the risk of heart disease, among other undesirable things.
It will take an average of 5 days (WHO allows for a 14-day interval) for coronavirus to incubate in the body of an infect person. During this time the immune system will fight off the virus before it spreads to every part of the body. If the person’s immunity is strong it should be able to overcome the virus. This is why we should all take steps to boost our immunity. Nevertheless prevention, as Sir Nick White a professor of Tropical Medicine at Oxford and Mahidol University have emphasized, offers better benefits.
As the government gradually ease the lockdown, in addition to boosting our immunity, we should endeavour to observe all the precautionary rules that WHO have set. By frequently washing our hands with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, wearing face masks when in public, maintaining social and physical distance, avoiding crowded places, staying at home unless it is absolutely necessary to go out, not sharing personal items, cleaning surface areas in our houses with bleach, etc., we should be able to break the chain of transmission and flatten the curve ultimately.