Alone laments increase in self-medication against COVID-19 in Akwa Ibom


There have been alarming reports in Akwa Ibom State about the flagrant refusal of some residents of the State, to comply with the laid-down protocol of the government, relating to the testing of persons who have symptoms of the coronavirus disease. It was gathered that, several people who experience these symptoms, such as fever, sore throat and difficulty in breathing, no longer contact the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC. Instead, they stay at home and experiment with drugs, especially anti-malaria drugs, with a view to finding a cure to the symptoms they are experiencing. The Alone, also called Alone, believes that by this development, we have hit a new low, in the fight against the pandemic. It is a clear departure from the initial response to the pandemic which saw many persons being tested, quarantined, treated and re-tested to ascertain a clean bill of health, before being discharged. The confounding reports on people resorting to self-medication at home, without being tested, only spells doom for the populace. The refusal of these people to get tested and placed in isolation (if found positive to the virus), will expose many others to the disease and prevent the NCDC from getting the actual figures and overall statistics about the pandemic in Nigeria. The current number of confirmed cases in the State stands at 48, as of June 14, 2020, but from all indications, there could be more infected persons in the State who are on self-medication or have recovered, without undergoing a medical test to ascertain their status.

It was learnt that some people who experienced complete loss of smell and taste, as well as fever and sore throats, recovered fully within 3 – 5 days, after administering anti-malarial medications on themselves. This has stirred doubts in the minds of several persons in the State, about the authenticity of NCDC’s fight against COVID-19, with some people suggesting that the anti-financial crime agencies in the country should investigate the work of the NCDC, and ascertain if the rumours about NCDC giving false records of confirmed and quarantined cases in order to inflate its budget, is true. Not a few persons in the State now believe COVID-19 is only a common ailment, synonymous to malaria, which is not worth the fuss it generated in the country at its inception.

However, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has in recent times, updated on its website, the COVID-19 symptoms, which now include, shivering, catarrh, diarrhoea, headache and fatigue, as well as cough, fever, difficulty breathing, sore throat, loss of smell and loss of taste. The NCDC has also addressed the similarities in the manifestation of COVID-19 and malaria in humans, by stating on its website, that, “Although both diseases may present with fever, they are very different. COVID-19 is caused by a virus while malaria is caused by a plasmodium parasite. An individual can have COVID-19 and malaria at the same time, but they are very different”.

The deadly coronavirus disease, has been known to have diverse effects on infected persons, with some having mild symptoms and others, very severe symptoms, owing to the presence of underlying conditions, or an exposure to a high viral-load of the germ. It is therefore necessary for the State Government to work in conjunction with the Federal Government of Nigeria and its agency, the NCDC, to adopt means of addressing this budding problem of self-medication, so as to ensure that NCDC continues to capture the actual statistics on the infection rate of COVID-19, as well as the survival and death rates. Some of those measures could include an enhanced contact tracing and surveillance.

Alone therefore calls on the State Government to pay attention to the need for more COVID-19 surveillance and do all within its power, to ensure the State has more surveillance teams involved in contact-tracing and collection of samples from suspected cases for testing. It has become expedient for the State to have more surveillance teams in all LGAs of the State, given the hike in the number of confirmed cases, and the increase in suspected cases that have resorted to self-medication within the State. The government should also intensify its collaboration with the NCDC to ensure that all health workers involved in the management of coronavirus cases are well-trained and equipped for the work. All first responders and medical professionals in all hospitals should be given Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect them while they attend to patients under their care. In addition, the State Government must deploy resources within its control towards ensuring an adequate provision of essential supplies such as medical equipment, food, drugs, face masks and sanitisers. For a State faced with such a high degree of distrust by the people, in the way and manner the NCDC has handled the pandemic, it is expected that the government will do all it can to ensure that the confirmed cases in the State are well-managed and no item needed for their care is lacking. This has become necessary, not only for the survival of infected persons in the State, but also to encourage more persons to willingly subject themselves to a test, if they experience any of the COVID-19 symptoms, and be quarantined, if they test positive to the virus.