Palpable fear has hit Kano state over the cause of increasing deaths in the state in recent days.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, where cases have been high in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, authorities are yet to find out what is responsible for high deaths in the country’s north commercial hub.
As fatalities soar in the state, the Federal Government, through the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the state government are banking on verbal autopsy conducted on nearly 700 individuals in the state that have been dead.
Verbal Autopsy is a method of gathering information about symptoms and circumstances for a deceased individual to determine their cause of death; this is done through generating information from a description of events prior to the death of the persons involved.
The information are acquired from conversations or interviews with a person or persons familiar with the deceased, such information are analysed by health professionals or computer algorithms to assign likely cause(s) of death.
The latest of the dead persons are Professor Mousuru Lasun-Eniola of the Department of Physical Education, Bayero University, Kano (BUK), and an ace broadcaster with radio Kano, Ali Haruna Yakasai, who until his death was an assistant station manager with the radio house.
The cause of the death of these two highly placed professionals which occurred on the 6th of May, is yet to be ascertained, and the occurrence is coming on the heels of an on-going investigation into the rising cases of deaths in the state by a Ministerial Task Force
(MTF) led by Dr. Nasiru Sani Gwarzo, constituted by Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
Gwarzo, an indigene of Kano, had last Sunday, while briefing journalists at the Government House in Kano, hinted that the deaths might have been caused largely by Covid-19.
This claim was also confirmed by him in an interview he granted the Hausa Service of the BBC, on the same day, but, to the surprise of many people in the state, the Epidemiologist, in another separate press briefing held at the same venue, denied apportioning any percentage of such deaths to the coronavirus disease.
Clarifying his earlier claim, Gwarzo told journalists that he was misquoted, noting that the earlier media reports attributing such claims to him were “absolutely wrong”.
“That is not the truth because I have said repeatedly that the state is embarking on a study, (with) which we were very, very pleasantly impressed; and surprised that the state has already gone ahead to do a post mortem (a verbal autopsy), and the result is not out,” Gwarzo said, when he presented some medical equipment to the Kano State governor.
A string of deaths reported recently in the state raised concerns across the country, and prompted the Federal Government to raise a team of medical experts to help unravel the possible causes of the deaths. Those who died in the state within the last two weeks include notable academics, politicians, and administrators.
Gwarzo said the Kano State government is conducting studies in the graveyards, and that the result of the study is not out.
He disclosed that the Federal team and the state concluded another protocol, which would do the actual testing of samples. According to him, it is the “conclusive result” that would indicate the proportion that had died of COVID and the percent that died of other causes.
Meanwhile, Garba Shehu, spokesperson to President Muhammadu Buhari, has called on all to wait for the result of the autopsy being conducted as related to the mysterious deaths in the state.
“In Nigeria, there are currently verbal autopsies underway in Kano State to identify the precise cause of the sudden and rapid increase in mortality in recent days. While some may wish to believe that there are other causes at play here like hypertension, diabetes, meningitis, and acute malaria’, there are others who say it is COVID-19.
“We should be prepared to accept the medical and scientific result of the autopsies and work together to confront the common enemy. What we know all over the world is that communities with similar socioeconomic dynamics like Kano have found as very helpful, the sort of lockdown measures now imposed, with markets and other public places of worship shuttered more strictly.
“The President and his government are with the people of Kano State and will not let them down. If there is reason to believe that the mortality rate in Kano due to COVID-19 is out of control, it will spell a serious development to which the best action would be for the
Federal government and state government to work more tightly together to find solutions and implement together,” he said.
“There is no time for energy wasted on political point-scoring, whether by current or former holders of office – or for any differences between state and federal administrations to be publicly aired. This is no time for talk. Our common purpose is to preserve the lives and health of citizens,” Garba further said.