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World WHO seeks to understand why Africa is less affected by Covid-19

03:40  25 september  2020
03:40  25 september  2020 Source:   rfi.fr

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“While covid - 19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots,” says For example, it takes into account the fact that Africans travel less , thanks to sparse road networks. The authors reckon that without containment measures

Less affluent countries and those experiencing ongoing internal conflict have tested the least . Under an initiative called the Partnership to Accelerate Covid - 19 Testing (Pact) it is supporting countries Africa 's proactive response to the arrival of Covid 19 on the continent may have slowed the spread of

Une fresque murale encourage le lavage des mains et le port de masques comme mesures de prévention contre le coronavirus, dans le bidonville de Kibera à Nairobi, le 13 août 2020. © Simon MAINA / AFP A mural encourages hand washing and the wearing of masks as preventive measures against the coronavirus, in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, August 13, 2020.

To date, more than 1.4 million cases of Covid-19 have been recorded on the African continent and nearly 35,000 people have died from the coronavirus according to the 'Africa CDC (African Union Center for Disease Prevention and Control). This is little compared to other continents. The WHO organized a press conference on Thursday, September 24 to detail the first avenues of research to try to explain this situation.

Initially, the outlook was poor. Analysts predicted millions of deaths on the continent, which has a majority of poor countries with weak health systems. But more than six months after the first case in Africa, the expected devastation has not occurred and the number of cases is declining in most countries.

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“One reason why we may be seeing what we are seeing is that the continent of Africa reacted aggressively,” John Nkengasong, the director of Public-health experts believe that the country is not administering enough COVID - 19 tests. There is far less consensus about what an adequate number

We should therefore anticipate that in Africa a higher incidence of severe forms of COVID - 19 will occur in There are two major health system factors that will make the COVID - 19 response in Africa more As a result, the health systems are stretched thin to begin with, and there is very little room to

After comparing the genetic code of several samples of SARS-CoV-2 in Africa, it appears that the virus is similar to the one circulating in Europe. Scientists therefore rule out the possibility of a less dangerous African strain. So how can we explain that the continent is largely escaping the pandemic?

Strict containment measures were adopted very early in most African countries. And that has certainly helped keep the number of cases very low. Like the fact that African countries already have experience with many infectious diseases like malaria and Ebola, despite failing health systems. But there are other reasons for the African uniqueness. And even if the clinical and sociological data are still fragmented, researchers believe that the situation in Africa can be explained by a combination of multiple factors.

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Cross-immunity

A first explanation would come from the age of the population, according to Dr Matshidiso Moeti, director of WHO in Africa. Scientists have in fact shown that the elderly are more at risk of contracting Covid-19. “In most African countries, around 3% of the population is over 65 years old. There are countries that have a higher death rate in Africa. Algeria, for example, where we see that nearly 10% of the population is over 65 years old. So we think age makes a difference. And there are other factors: international mobility, the ability to move within countries, road networks, the number of cars per capita. All this plays on the ability of the virus to spread in countries.

The temperature or even the way of life could also play a role. Matshidiso Moeti thus believes that the fact that the seniors live in the family home in Africa and not gathered in retirement homes, could avoid outbreaks of contagion. Professor Francisca Mutapi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Edinburgh, is also advancing other avenues of research. “The virus is rarely transmitted outdoors. And Africa has a significant portion of the rural population who spend time outdoors. We have also just started a large cross-immunity study in Zimbabwe to find out whether exposure to six other coronaviruses protects the population from SARS-CoV-2. "

African data for Africa

Preliminary studies also show, for example, that 80% of Covid-19 cases in Africa are asymptomatic, compared to 40 to 50% in Europe, according to the WHO. And for epidemiology professor Mark Woolhouse, who heads a data collection program in nine countries on the continent, it is important to better understand these African peculiarities: “Africa has its own epidemic. I have done a lot of work on the epidemic in the UK and Europe. These epidemics are different. They do not have the same characteristics. So I think we will learn a lot from this African data destined for Africa. "

The results of these various research programs are expected within a few months.

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