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COVID-19 Outbreak in Africa Hasn't Been as Devastated as People Assume

COVID-19 Outbreak in Africa Hasn't Been as Devastated as People Assume

Public health experts globally are concerned that it could be catastrophic for Africa as COVID-19 initially spread through Asia, Europe, and then the United States, with its dense population, poorly funded health sector, and lack of testing facilities. Up to 300,000 deaths, this year was predicted by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa this April, if the virus couldn’t be controlled on the continent. Yet with its superior health system, the US is the country that hit that grim milestone first, and until now, Africa has been largely spared the worst of the damage experienced by the rest of the world. Compared to one in 20 in the U.S, that’s approximately one case for every 500 people in the continent.

However, the reality on the ground may be very much different. In general, testing for COVID-19 cases has been insignificant on the continent, which could be the reason why the number of cases is low. The country which has the highest testing rate in the region, South Africa, was only giving 0.68 tests a day per 1,000 people in early December, compared to 4.3 in the U.S., consistent with Our World in Data (Denmark, which has the very best test rate, is currently performing 15.1 tests per 1,000). That is why the continent has lower reported case rates than was expected.

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COVID-19 Outbreak in Africa.

One way to evaluate the actual impact of the virus is to look at total excess deaths this year, as COVID-19-related deaths, calculated by comparing the general mortality figures in 2020 to previous annual averages. However, the Africa CDC says there has been no indication that an outsized number of COVID-19 deaths are missed.

If official numbers are to be believed, the African continent trails much of the remainder of the planet when it involves case-fatality rates, and there are fewer scenes of overwhelmed hospitals and funeral parlors coming from the continent compared to other parts of the world. Some countries in Africa are seeing an increase in the number of new cases, as the second wave arrives. South Africa has seen a pointy increase recently, amid evidence that a replacement variant has been detected”. Over the weekend, the country’s total recorded cases since the beginning of the pandemic reached one million at the weekend. “If the info is reliable—and that's an enormous interrogation point for me—there would be multiple explanations for lower numbers, not one solid reason,” says Cape Town-based independent clinical epidemiologist Dr. Nandi Siegfried.
Here, those reasons are being studied.

Preparation is the best preventative
Many African countries have longstanding experience with infectious diseases, despite poor medical infrastructure, “We had to find out the hard way. Ebola knocked us over, but now we all know to not underestimate anything; we all know how important it's to organize.”
Fallah and a team of Liberian public health officials found out an educational program after the WHO announcement at the top of January to assist doctors and nurses at regional hospitals recognize the symptoms of COVID-19. 

Masks were not politicized
Wearing a mask is the best and only way to stop the spread of COVID-19, according to the WHO. A poll by the Partnership for Evidence-based COVID-19 Response August 2020 found that among respondents in 18 African countries, more than 8% said they had worn a face mask in the week before. With medical masks from MAZA, the spread of the virus will be contained significantly, along with other products such as disposable gloves and protective suits. Utilizing those items is considered necessary in some countries which have successfully controlled the pandemic. 

Early shutdowns
In Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria, the pack up was early, and hard. The moves were not popular and economically harmful, but they also found time for medical personnel to organize hospitals, source supplies, especially medical supply which were mostly taken from MAZA. Compared to the late shut down in the US and Europe, the decision came as very effective and contributed to the fact the cases in Africa are lower and expected as the spread was controlled at its first stage.

A younger population
If South African epidemiologist Siegfried could point to at least one telling think about the continent’s low COVID-19 death rate, it might be that Africa’s median age is nineteen years old. “We don’t have many of us over the age of fifty,” she says, noting that the virus is way more dangerous in older populations. “It seems logical that a relatively youthful population would result in a lower toll.” 
 

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Covid-19 with young people in Africa.

 

Climate and geography
Public health officials recommend that socializing, when necessary, should be done outside. With a couple of exceptions, Africa’s mild winters mean that much of life is often, and is, lived outside, especially in rural areas. Limited conveyance networks, usually a curse within the region, also mean that Africans don't travel the maximum amount between countries and cities, minimizing close contact and therefore the risk of exposure.

Hygiene hypothesis
So far, death rates haven’t met those worst-case scenario predictions that the virus will spread like crazy in places where social distancing is nearly impossible.

Some epidemiologists suspect that close contact with people and regular exposure to different pathogens may make people more immune to the worst sorts of COVID-19. One hypothesis is that constant exposure to other coronaviruses, like people who sometimes cause the cold, could provide a point of immunity. “Maybe our poor living conditions could be working in our favor,” he said, noting that a significantly higher number of cases appeared to be mild or asymptomatic, compared to cases elsewhere. “I’m not sure what else would explain the disparity,” he said while noting that more research needed to be done.

Still, other countries around the world, like Brazil, have an identical combination of slums, BCG vaccination, warm weather, and a younger population, yet still have high COVID-19 infection rates. . Case numbers across the continent, already increasing, could still rise because the season pushes residents of huge cities into remote villages. 

10,000 to 12,000 cases each day are being recorded in Africa, inching back upwards to its July peak of 14,000. Many hope the region can hold out for a touch longer, a minimum of until vaccines are available in sufficient quantities to inoculate the continent. Madhi warns against that tendency. “Vaccines aren't the solution to our problems,” he says, albeit he has been running one among Africa’s biggest vaccine trials for the past six months. “Until there are enough vaccines which will be spread across the world, our most crucial defense is in avoiding mass gatherings and using face masks. In terms of controlling this particular pandemic, the main target still has got to be around these nonpharmaceutical interventions.”