A community-based survey on the reported increased mortality in Kano State has been published by Yusuf Yau Gambo, an applied mathematician and data analyst at the Department of Mathematics, Yusuf Maitama Sule University, Kano where he gave possible explanations for the deaths with data.
It is not immediately clear if the survey has any connection with the one the government has initiated, the report of which has not been made available.
The report was reviewed by Auwal Abubakar, a medical and public health professional from the University of California, Berkeley, USA and Audu Liman, Chief of Party, USAID SENSE Project, American University of Nigeria.
The analyst said “the main objective of the research is not to get the death toll in the state, but rather to generate aggregate data that can allow us to have an idea of what is going on.
“This research is not aiming at getting the current mortality rate in the state either. In fact, that may not be possible without an existing baseline data. But the findings on this report can be useful to authorities concerned to take decisive actions,” he explained.
Read the full report below:
Reportedly, there is high death toll in Kano State presently and there have been a lot of clamors for a robust investigation and communication by authorities concerned to allay the concerns of the residents in the state.
More so, this investigation and explanation are extremely important especially in this period of a global pandemic, else there would be opportunities for mischief makers and fake news peddlers to drive the narrative and increase fear in the mind of residents by linking this to diseases like the highly infectious and relentless SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) and other unsubstantiated claims.
For instance, after the first initial reports of the reported deaths, Daily Trust reported on April 25 that the Kano State Government denies the mysterious deaths being recorded within the state and that has created a lot of confusions and fears in the minds of people that witness the unprecedented deaths happening in the state. These concerns have reportedly intensified with the multiple deaths of prominent personalities in the state including six highly regarded professors. This has also led to experts and residents calling on the state to urgently investigate and address the causes of the problem. Perhaps a better way to improve the discussions is to present data that clearly proves the occurrence of the strange deaths in the state. This notion motivated me to conduct this research that will find possible explanations to this mystery using quantitative data.
One way to get the data is from the bereaved families directly or from residents that are close to these families in various communities. However, with the lockdown in force, it will be difficult to acquire data through one-on-one interview. Instead, an online survey form was developed and shared widely among residents in the state.
The form mainly captures vital information of the deceased and the respondents were only those Kano residents that witnessed the death cases in their communities. A total of 260 responses from various LGAs were received within a period of four days beginning from April 21, 2020. It is however important to note that the main objective of the research is not to get the death toll in the state, but rather to generate aggregate data that can allow us to have an idea of what is going on.
This research is not aiming at getting the current mortality rate in the state either. In fact, that may not be possible without an existing baseline data. But the findings on this report can be useful to authorities concerned to take decisive actions.
Based on the data obtained, it becomes quite clear that greater percentage of people in Kano State are well cognizant of the unprecedented deaths happening in the state.
Half of the respondents asserted that the death toll in their communities within the last two weeks is higher than 5 and most of the deaths started to occur from the 13th of April 2020. It is scary to know that since then, the rate of deaths reported did not decline during the period of the research.
From the data, it is impossible to ascertain the exact number of the deceased that were hospitalized or visited hospitals as more than half of the respondents were oblivious. However, a good number of respondents testified that the deceased were not hospitalized nor visited any hospital. The results also indicate that the deceased were only briefly ill– as brief as 1-10 days.
Most of the reported death cases by respondents happened in Kano metropolis with vast majority of the deaths occurring in Kano Municipal LGA followed by Gwale and Dala LGAs. It is remarkable to note that all the LGAs in the metropolitan recorded this mass death and only few in the outskirt of Kano were affected. Non-metropolitan LGAs seemed to be not
affected by this increase in deaths based on the responses. It can also be observed that all the affected LGAs outside Kano Metropolis were in the South Senatorial District with the exception of Gwarzo LGA.
The data strongly shows that more males die than females and this is distributed across the age group. On the other hand, it is obvious that oldest people were the ones mostly dying.
The chat above convincingly indicates that fever was the most prevailing symptom shown by the deceased. Although these symptoms may not point to a specific illness, nonetheless they are indications that the mysterious deaths occurring in the state is due to illness suggestive of infection.
While this report alone may not confirm the possible cause of the mysterious deaths happening in Kano state, however, it indicates that there is a genuine cause of concern as the increase in mortality seems to be true. The data reveals that the death tolls is in multiples. While it is unclear whether most of the deceased visited hospitals or were even hospitalized, but about one-quarter of them spent the period of their illness at home. The period of sickness of these dying people was usually short. In fact, the data suggest that most of the deaths occured within 10 days of illness.
All local government areas (LGAs) of Kano metropolis were affected by this spike in devastating deaths in the last two weeks with Kano Municipal being the LGA seeing the highest death toll according to the data. Moreover, only few LGAs outside Kano Metropolitan were affected by the situation with insignificant number of cases and these LGAs were in the South Senatorial District. More so, it is interesting to know that only Gwarzo LGA in the northern part of Kano was affected and with negligible number as well.
The findings clearly indicate that the increased deaths in Kano State happened among the elderly people, mostly above 60 years of age across both gender. However, the male gender accounted for 91% as compared to only 9% females.
On the final note, the data recorded indicate that fever was the most common symptom shown by the dying people followed by loss of consciousness and weakness of the body as the second and third KNOWN symptoms shown.
By Auwal Abubakar, MBBS, MPH, MSc
From the data presented in this report, it is inferable that there was a sudden increase in number of deaths due to acute illness suggestive of infection. Highest number of death was recorded among senior adults, affecting males than females. It is also observed that the most affected area was Kano Municipal. Although it’s hard to point out the possible cause of death based on the data, however, the possibility of relating the situation to the current COVID-19 pandemic could not be ruled out. This is because the data strongly aligns with the current COVID-19 pandemic in terms of symptoms, incubation period, age group affected and other demographic characteristics. Nonetheless, the only way to confirm this is by conducting autopsies on an adequate sample size.
Based on the analysis done in this report, we proffer the following recommendations that could help to find a way out of this situation in the state. It is my hope that the Kano State Government would consider the following:
- Conduct autopsies to a reasonable number of the dying people to figure out the possible cause of deaths. This can be achieved by situating a medical team in cemeteries that would be taking samples with the consent of bereaved families present.
- Constitute a team of experts to conduct an in-depth and standard survey that could specifically identify the exact death toll in the state.
III. Enlighten and keep abreast the good people of Kano State on the situation going on with regards to this mysterious deaths in the state. Because this report shows that 96% of the respondents were already aware of the mass deaths.
- Scale up the COVID-19 testing capacity in the state to rule out the possibility of a linkage between the disease and the reported number of deaths in the state.
To General Public
- It is wrong to be an agent of spreading fake news on the increase in the number of people mysteriously dying in the state.
- Abide by the laws set by the government and general guidelines set by health professionals.
III. Remain calm and let the authorities concerned to get to the bottom of the situation.
Medical personnel have been responding to the report, some saying it was a good initiative, even as some said a vital point was missing in the recommendation.
“He omitted to include testing of close contacts of the deceased. This is very very vital”, said a medical doctor from Ibadan, Oyo State, who added that “this could be done even if it would be on a randomly selected samples of contacts.”