Mr Abubakar Kende, Secretary-General, Nigerian Red Cross says the organisation has placed on alert nearly one million of its volunteers across the country in view of the global outbreak of Coronavirus.

Kende who said this at a news conference on Thursday in Abuja urged Nigerians to imbibe good hygiene and observe measure recommended by the Federal Ministry of Health.

The official said the organisation had placed the volunteers on alert to support relevant ministries, departments and agencies of Government, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Committee of the Red Cross to prevent, control and contain Lassa fever and Coronavirus.

He, however, advised Nigerians to adhere to the following measures to protect themselves from Coronavirus as recommended by the ministry:

– Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds.

– Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.

– Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

– Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

– Use hand sanitizers or soap and water to clean your hand regularly. Also, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The official called on relevant government agencies and corporate organisations to partner with the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) to assist in the fight against Lassa fever and prevention of Coronavirus.

Similarly, Kende said the organisation had mobilised about 100,000 staff and volunteers in all the affected states and neighbouring states affected by Lassa to support the efforts of the government.

“We are currently carrying out mass mobilisation to create awareness on the Lassa fever outbreak and hygiene promotion through the mass media, in churches, mosques and schools.

“We are also creating awareness on the fever in markets and communities and to conduct active surveillance, contact tracing and referral of persons showing case definition of Lassa Fever to designated treatment centres,’’ he said.

The official said the NRCS had concluded plans to provide community-based psycho-social support services to survivors and families of affected persons in order to reduce stigma and promote recovery.

“Our Branches have been holding sensitization sessions in worship centres, schools and communities.

“The National Headquarters is mobilising support to the branches on the following: active surveillance and contact tracing, door to door health education and epidemic control activities and community clean up and vector control activities, among others,’’ he said.

According to him, the organisation has activated an internal funding mechanism (Disaster Response Emergency Fund -DREF) for this operation to support eight most affected states: Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Kano, Bauchi, Taraba, Delta and Kogi.

Lassa fever is a viral infection carried by the multimammate rat, one of the most common mice in equatorial Africa found across much of sub-Saharan Africa.

The illness was first discovered in Nigeria when two missionary nurses got infected with the virus in 1969. Since then, it has become a disease that Nigeria contends with every other year.

The rate of infections this year is very alarming when compared to 2019; as at 1st week of February 2020, a total of 1226 suspected cases, 365 confirmed cases and 47 deaths had been recorded.

These were reported from 23 states across the country and in74 Local Government Areas.