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Coronavirus in Lagos, Nigeria? No, doctored story copied from report on Lassa fever in Kogi

“Lagos confirms 9 cases of Coronavirus, 4 deaths,” claims a 9 February 2020 article on the site

“The Lagos State Ministry of Health has confirmed nine cases of Coronavirus with four deaths recorded since the outbreak of the deadly disease in the state,” it reads.

“Dr Austin Ojotule, the State Epidemiologist, disclosed this in statement in Lagos on Sunday.”

It adds: “The official said that the nine confirmed cases were from five local government areas of Ibaji with two, Okene, two, Idah, three, Okehi, one, and Igalamela Local Government Area, one.”

The article has been shared on Facebook.

But has the deadly virus hit Nigeria?

No coronavirus cases in Africa

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases. An outbreak of a new strain, named “2019-nCoV” and known as “novel coronavirus”, was identified in Wuhan, China in late December 2019. (Note: The strain has now been named Covid-19.)

According to the World Health Organization’s most recent update on the outbreak, for 10 February 2020, the virus has claimed 909 lives in China, and one in the Philippines. There are 40,554 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, most of them in China.

There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases or deaths anywhere in Africa – including Nigeria.

Copy of report on Lassa fever outbreak

The article is an almost word for word copy of a widely published news report on a Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria’s Kogi state. “Lassa fever” has been changed to “coronavirus”, and “Kogi” changed to “Lagos”.

Dr Austin Ojotule is a state epidemiologist – for Kogi state.

Ibaji, Okene, Idah, Okehi and Igalamela are all local government areas of Kogi state, not Lagos.

On 11 February, Prof Akin Abayomi, Lagos state’s commissioner for health, dismissed the claim on Twitter.

“This is absolute falsehood,” he wrote. “Nigerians and the international community should disregard this report intentionally published to cause panic and anxiety among our people. We reiterate our disrelish for fake news and it remains a criminal offence!”

The article is false. – Mary Alexander


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