Knowledge, Awareness And Perceptions of Coronavirus in Nigeria

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Knowledge, Awareness And Perceptions of Coronavirus in Nigeria A Study Lagos State

Abstract

This study assessed knowledge and perceptions about COVID-19 among the general public in Nigeria during the initial week of the pandemic lockdown in the country. From March 28 to April 4, 2020, this cross-sectional survey used an anonymous online questionnaire to collect data from respondents within Nigeria. Purposive and snowball sampling techniques were used to recruit 1357 respondents, aged 15-70 years, from 180 cities and towns within Nigeria. Study data were analysed using descriptive statistics. Approximately more than half (57.02%) of the respondents were male with high level of education (48.86% bachelor’s degree or higher). Approximately  half  of  the  respondents  (46.94%)  opined  that  COVID-19  was  ―a  biological weapon designed by the Chinese government.‖ About 94% of the respondents identified ―contact with airborne droplets via breathing, sneezing, or coughing‖ as the most common mode of transmission; most respondents associated COVID-19 with coughing (81.13%), shortness of breath (73.47%) and fever (62.79%). ―Regular hand washing and social distancing‖ was selected by most respondents (94.25%) as a way of preventing infection whereas 11.86% reported―consuming  gins,  garlic,  ginger,  herbal  mixtures  and  African  foods/soups‖  as  preventive measures against COVID-19. Majority of the respondents (91.73%) thought COVID-19 is deadly; and most respondents (84.3%) got 4 or more answers correctly. It was also observed that the traditional media (TV/Radio) are the most common source of health information about COVID-19 (93.5%). Findings revealed that Nigerians have relatively high knowledge, mostly derived from traditional media, about COVID-19. Their perceptions of COVID-19 bear implications across public health initiatives, compliance with precautionary behavior as well as bilateral relations with foreign nations. Evidence-based campaign should be intensified to remove misconceptions and promote precautionary measures.

CHAPTERONE/Introduction

The novel Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), first identified in Wuhan China in December 2019, has rapidly spread to almost every region of the world. The disease is caused by a new and severe type of Coronavirus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS- CoV-2). The infection has no immediate treatment and vaccine, and it has according to World Health Organization (WHO, 2020) become a worldwide pandemic causing significant morbidity and mortality. There are 1,603,428 confirmed cases, 356,440 recoveries from the illness and 95,714 deaths worldwide as of April 9, 2020 (Worldometers, 2020). On February 27, 2020, an Italian citizen became the index case for COVID-19 in Nigeria and as at April 9, 2020, there were 288 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria with 51 discharges and 7 deaths (Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, 2020).

To prevent further spread of the virus, civil societies and government agencies embarked on enlightenment campaigns for good hygiene and social distancing. Temperature screening was conducted at airports and those returning from countries with numerous confirmed cases of COVID-19 were implored to self-isolate. The NCDC in association with State governments also began tracing and tracking of possible victims and their contacts. On March 18, 2020, the Lagos State government suspended all gatherings above fifty people for four weeks and ordered all lower and middle level public officers to stay-at-home (Ewodage, 2020). Similarly, the Federal government, on March 30, 2020 introduced various containment strategies such as closing of the national borders and airspace, schools, worship centers and other public places, canceling of mass gathering events and placing the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states on lock down for an initial period of fourteen days (Radio Nigeria, 2020). Covid-19 testing laboratories were set up in Lagos, Abuja and Irrua in Edo State while State governments opened isolation centres and imposed dawn to dust curfews in their territories.

COVID-19, from the family of Coronavirus (others include SARS, H5N1, H1N1 and MERS), is a contagious respiratory illness transmitted through the eyes, nose, and mouth, via droplets from coughs and sneezes, close contact with infected person and contaminated surfaces. It has an incubation period of approximately one to fourteen days. The symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath, and it is diagnosed through a laboratory test. The contagion could lead to severe respiratory problems or death, particularly among the elderly and persons with underlying chronic illnesses. Some infected persons however, are carriers for the virus with no symptoms while others may experience only a mild illness and recover easily (Sauer, 2020). As there is currently no cure or vaccine for the COVID-19; medical treatments are limited to supportive measures aimed at relieving symptoms, use of research drugs and therapeutics.

Knowledge of infection pathways and relevant precautions to take is needed to control the pandemic. While the scientific community continues to research possible vaccines or drugs for the viral infection, it is expected that adequate knowledge will motivate individuals to make decisions which may prevent and curb the epidemics. Knowledge such as regular hand washing, using hand sanitizers, wearing face masks, respiratory etiquettes, social distancing and self- isolation when sick are vital to reducing widespread infection (Leppin & Aro, 2009). Studies (e.g. Brug, Aro, Oenema, de Zwart, Richardus & Bishop, 2004; Choi & Yang, 2010; Hussain, Hussain & Hussain 2012) revealed that individuals’ level of knowledge about an infectious disease can make them behave in ways that may prevent infection. Consequently, individuals may need to be informed about the potential risks of infections in order to adopt the right precautionary measures (Brug, Aro & Richardus, 2009).

At early stages of a pandemic, precautionary measures are needed to protect against possible danger and curtail the disease spread. In line with this therefore, the Nigerian government (just like other governments around the world) introduced various containment strategies which have interfered with individuals’ daily lives and have led to severe economic loss and social disruption. People were coerced to stay at home, businesses and offices were closed, exempting healthcare facilities/workers and ―essential‖ commercial establishments. For Nigerians making a living in the informal economy, their livelihood is now threatened by the lockdown since much of their activities and businesses involve face-to-face contact. In Nigeria there is no social safety net, no access to food stamps or unemployment benefits, most people earn their living on a daily basis. Regardless of this however, there has so far been a high degree of compliance with the government directives, Nigerians are engaging in vigilant hand washing, practicing social distancing and self-isolation, and avoiding going to work, school or crowded areas. Even most religious leaders agreed to stop large gatherings, forbid the shaking of hands and directed church members to pray at home and use hand sanitizers (Makinde, Nwogu, Ajaja & Alagbe, 2020; Olatunji, 2020).

On the other hand, some Nigerians due to superstitions and ignorance of the science behind the infection prefer only to pray (even violating the social distancing rule by attending churches or mosques during the lockdown) and use anointing oils, talisman, herbs or rituals (Abati, 2020) to prevent contracting and spreading the virus. Some also use social media platforms (e.g. Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) to spread fear, project fake news concerning the source of the virus, promote prejudice against China, incite panic buying, proffer fake cures and undermine medical advice, deliberately or ignorantly (Hassan, 2020). They opined that lockdown, self-isolation and social distancing are un-African solutions to the pandemic (Abati, 2020).

Given the importance of knowledge of precautionary activities in curbing the spread of infectious diseases such as the novel COVID-19, it is important to research on people’s health knowledge at this period of the pandemic. Richards (2017) reported that knowledge among ordinary people about how to eliminate risks of contracting Ebola virus led to a rapid drop in mid-2015 in the number of cases of infection. Therefore, in this study, we hope to ascertain the level of the knowledge of COVID-19 among a sample of Nigerians as well as their perceptions of the pandemic.

Research Questions

The present study is guided by the following questions:

  • What is the knowledge of Nigerians about the source of COVID-19?
  • What is the knowledge of Nigerians about the mode of transmission of COVID-19?
  • What is the knowledge of Nigerians about the symptoms of COVID-19?
  • What is the knowledge of Nigerians on preventive behavior toward COVID-19?
  • How fatal do Nigerians perceive COVID-19?