Wednesday, March 4, 2020 5:37 pm
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
Given the wonky healthcare situation of African countries, not a few global experts expected that with Coronavirus ravaging the world, the Grim Reaper would have, by now, been at work on this continent. Dressed in his black cloak, wielding his evil scythe, it should be picking up corpses the way a combine harvester would, rice or corn or wheat.
Not so. The reverse has rendered the jaws of world health experts slack since. Till date, only three cases of infection have been officially recorded in Africa, one in Egypt, one in Algeria and one in Nigeria, with no deaths, france24.com reported. The first case was recorded in Nigeria when an Italian came from Milan on February 24 carrying the virus
What could be the reason for the low rate of the infection? Nigerians have even developed a humour around it. A Lagosian claimed that Africans are as strong as gorilla or orangutan! While some attributed it to heat or equatorial sunlight, not a few said herbal concoction, laced with generous dose of ogogoro (alcohol), goro (colanut) and snuff powder, consumed by Africans in large quantity could be the reason.
Moreover, some swore by their ancestors’ coffins that Africans do not eat vectors like rats, bats, millipedes, cockroaches, earthworms raw the way some Orientals do.
The pious ones in the Abrahamic faiths and African traditional religion said it is as a result of prayers or divination, as the case may be…It was the same joke that came up when many Nigerians dared the mad cow disease with hot pepper soup, garlic, ginger, alligator pepper, and other condiments, to be washed down with heady wine.
The humour above notwithstanding, france24 wrote: “Whether it’s a matter of faulty detection, climatic factors or simple fluke, the remarkably low rate of coronavirus infection in African countries, with their fragile health systems, continues to puzzle – and worry – experts.”
That only three cases have been recorded in Africa is, according to the report, “a remarkably small number for a continent with nearly 1.3 billion inhabitants, and barely a drop in the ocean of more than 86,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths recorded in some 60 countries worldwide.”
Shortly after the virus appeared, the report has it further, specialists warned of the risks of its spreading in Africa, because of the continent’s close commercial links with Beijing and the fragility of its medical services. “Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for Covid-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, told African Union health ministers gathered in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on February 22.
The report goes further:
“In a study published in The Lancet medical journal on the preparedness and vulnerability of African countries against the importation of Covid-19, an international team of scientists identified Algeria, Egypt and South Africa as the most likely to import new coronavirus cases into Africa, though they also have the best prepared health systems in the continent and are the least vulnerable.
As to why the epidemic is not more widespread in the continent, “nobody knows”, said Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, from the African Institute for Health Research in Durban, South Africa. “Perhaps there is simply not that much travel between Africa and China.”
But Ethiopian Airlines, the largest African airline, never suspended its flights to China since the epidemic began, and China Southern on Wednesday resumed its flights to Kenya. And, of course, people carrying coronavirus could enter the country from any of the other 60-odd countries with known cases.
Favourable climate factors have also been raised as a possibility.
“Perhaps the virus doesn’t spread in the African ecosystem, we don’t know,” said Professor Yazdan Yazdanpanah, head of the infectious diseases department at Bichat hospital in Paris.
This hypothesis was rejected by Professor Rodney Adam, who heads the infection control task force at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. “There is no current evidence to indicate that climate affects transmission,” he said. “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.”
The study in The Lancet found that Nigeria, a country at moderate risk of contamination, is also one of the best-equipped in the continent to handle such an epidemic.”
• Continue reading the story from the original source: france24.com