Health experts baffled by Africa’s low coronavirus outbreak rate

Africa’s low coronavirus outbreak rate
Nigeria was the first sub-Saharan country to report an official case of coronavirus, © Pius Utomi E

Africa has a population of nearly 1.3 billion people and the continent was of concern to health experts especially the World Health Organization when it comes to proper health systems to combat any major disease outbreak.

The deadly impact of the Ebola outbreak in the last decade and the current outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo showed that Africa had weak health care systems.

So the fears of global health experts about the potential impact of the current coronavirus outbreak were legitimate.

But with more than 86,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths recorded in some 60 countries worldwide, Africa has relatively reported of low outbreak rate.

Cases in Africa are yet to hit 10 with Egypt (2), Algeria (3) and Nigeria (1) the only known cases so far.

There were fears also for Africa because of it’s close commercial links with China.

Weaker health systems

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization revealed in a meeting with African Union health ministers on February 22 that “Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for Covid-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems.”

But health experts are reportedly shocked about the low rate of the spread of the disease.

According to a France24 and AFP reporting, Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, from the African Institute for Health Research in Durban, South Africa said “nobody knows” why the epidemic is not more widespread in Africa.

Ndung’u said “Perhaps there is simply not that much travel between Africa and China.”

Another expert, Professor Yazdan Yazdanpanah who is head of the infectious diseases department at Bichat hospital in Paris was quoted in the same reporting that may be favourable climate factors have played a role in this shocking development.

“Perhaps the virus doesn’t spread in the African ecosystem, we don’t know,” Yazdanpanah said.

More research needed

But some experts are calling for more research to understand why Africa is yet to record massive cases of the coronavirus.

Professor Rodney Adam, who heads the infection control task force at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya was quoted by France 24 as saying that “There is no current evidence to indicate that climate affects transmission.”

He adds that “While it is true that for certain infections there may be genetic differences in susceptibility…there is no current evidence to that effect for Covid-19.”

Victims of coronavirus often suffer from respiratory illness and this new strain of coronavirus was not previously identified in humans.

The virus is a global public health emergency, according to the World Health Organisation and there are concerns it could soon turn out into a global pandemic.

WHO advises that people stay at home if they begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and a slight runny nose, until they recover.

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