Monday, 30 March, 2020 05:30

Coronavirus: myths, facts and issues in Africa

Some African countries do not have testing capacity for the COVID-19. Out of 54 countries in Africa, only 37 of these countries have testing capacities for the virus. Seventeen other countries have no capacity to conduct tests for coronavirus, according to New Scientist. The publication said further that most of the reported and confirmed cases in Africa were not from China but from Europe.

New Scientist said further that scientists were yet to know why there are few cases of the new coronavirus being reported in Africa, while in Europe, Asia and America there are multiple infections and even deaths.

David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, when asked whether the low cases of the COVID-19 were due to a lack of detection or the virus simply not having yet spread to many African countries, said “Nobody can answer that.”

Vittoria Colizza at Sorbonne University in France said in Africa, “a lot of people may be travelling around infected but may not exhibit symptoms of the virus. Under-detection of incoming cases and a lack of capacity to monitor and do active surveillance could also play a part”.

Also, Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh said “It will always be possible to miss cases and that’s always been admitted in the UK. But given heightened awareness in Africa, the lack of coronavirus-linked deaths on the continent simply implies there aren’t yet any big undetected outbreaks. If there were major outbreaks, of the scale that Italy or Iran have had, anywhere in Africa, I would expect those deaths to be well above the radar by now”, he said.

According to the World Health Organization, most of the 37 countries with testing capacities in Africa have between 100-200 testing kits.

WHO said further that healthcare systems are generally more fragile in many African countries, and that if this outbreak spreads further, it’s going to collapse the healthcare systems and thus causing more damage.

As at March 10, there were 102 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa, though Togo and Cameroon reported their first cases.

More than 400 people have been tested in Africa, with 102 confirmed cases.

The World Health Organization has said that 10 African countries have confirmed cases so far. These countries include: South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt. Egypt has the highest number of reported cases in Africa, with 59.

Below is a table highlighting the Coronavirus confirmed cases in Africa.

Source: World Health Organization

No, African blood and black skin don’t ‘resist’ new coronavirus – AfricaCheck

“Chinese doctors confirmed African blood genetic composition resist coronavirus after student cured,” reads the headline of 14 February 2020 article on the site www.Af.feednews.com.

“Senou is a young Cameroonian student in China recently infected with Coronavirus he was released from the hospital this morning cured of the virus. Doctors seeking for a cure to treat the dreadful virus were amazed to see Senou still alive and fit,” the article says.

“The Chinese doctors confirmed that Senou stayed alive because of his blood genetic composition which is mainly found in the genetic composition of Sub-Saharan Africans.”

It adds: “Chinese doctors also said that he remained alive because he has black skin, the antibodies of a black are 3 times stronger, powerful and resistant compared to that of white.” But has it been confirmed that the “blood genetic composition” of Africans, and black skin, can “resist” coronavirus?

Understanding the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases. An outbreak of a new strain, technically known as 2019-nCoV and now named Covid-19, was identified in Wuhan, China in late December 2019.

According to the World Health Organization’s most recent update on the outbreak, for 17 February 2020, the virus has claimed 1,772 lives in China. Three more deaths – one each in the Philippines, Japan and France – have been recorded outside China.

There have been 71,429 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection across the world, most of them in China. One confirmed case of Covid-19 in Egypt is the only incidence of the disease in Africa so far.

 

Genetic diversity in Africa

Decades of research has found that Africans are the most genetically diverse people on earth.

The genetic diversity of people from other continents is just “a subset of the diversity within Africa”, say researchers who have built Africa’s biggest genome library.

This means Africans have no single “blood genetic composition” that can “resist” the Covid-19 coronavirus.

 

No evidence

To be sure, we asked Omolade Awodu, a professor of hematology at the school of medicine at Nigeria’s University of Benin, whether African blood and black skin made people resistant to coronavirus.

“This is a new virus and very little is known about it,” she said. “However, I have not come across any research that confirms the claim that African blood composition or black skin resist coronavirus.”

The World Health Organization publishes daily situation reports on the Covid-19 outbreak. These give statistics of cases and deaths, and a run-down on new developments such as promising leads in the search for a vaccine or cure.

None of these reports mention that African blood, or black skin, make people immune to the disease. – Motunrayo Joel

Culled from:Africacheck.org

 

Author: Ifah Sunday Ele

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