In early February, a mysterious disease hit Nigeria with symptoms varying from vomiting to diarrhea. The unknown illness killed 15, and a senator in the country claimed that numerous people were infected within 48 hours, as the Independent reported.
“By February 3, “the number of persons affected with the strange endemic has risen to 104,” said Senator Abba Moro.
Nigeria’s Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire, said last Friday that the disease is neither Ebola nor Lassa, but is caused by viruses that potentially cause a lethal outbreak and once occurred in West Africa.
WHO extends an emergency status for Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The ongoing Ebola outbreak still poses a threat in Africa as the World Health Organization (WHO) prolonged an emergency status for the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after the most recent outbreak in August 2018. Since then, the illness has claimed over 2,300 lives in eastern DR Congo-which is prone to an insurgency from militia groups operating there.
Ebola was first discovered in Africa in 1976. The virus lives initially in an animal’s body and then infects humans through an animal’s contaminated blood. Also, the virus causes symptoms such as fever, headache, and appetite loss.
“Since the year 2000, one or two outbreaks of Ebola were identified every year in Africa. One hypothesis is that close contact with bats or bat caves, hunting and eating bush meat may all cause human infections. Once human infection occurs person to person transmission is common if close contact occurs between patient and unprotected people,” Professor Eyal Leshem, Director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center, told InsideOver in an email interview.
Leshem added that the geopolitical situation has halted the handling of the Ebola outbreak, hoping that a quarantine and a travel restriction on affected areas can help curbing the Ebola epidemic.
Containment of the current Ebola virus outbreak is especially challenging due to the geopolitical and socio-demographic conditions in DRC – Uganda border region which is the epicenter. While the epidemic curve peaked nearly eight months ago, multiple cases are continuously diagnosed in affected regions and local conflict hampers containment efforts. Hopefully travel restrictions and quarantine imposed on affected areas along with international and local government efforts will be successful in stopping and preventing spread to other African countries.
Both Outbreaks Occurred Amid the New Coronavirus Pandemic
The mystery illness and Ebola epidemic both occurred amid the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which has infected more than 20 countries so far. On Saturday, February 15, Africa reported its first case of coronavirus infection in Egypt.
Egypt’s Health Ministry revealed that a foreigner was the first patient of COVID-19 in the country. The patient was already put in an isolation room as the authority reported to the WHO.
COVID-19 has killed more than 1,500, primarily in China, and infected more than 60,000 globally. The WHO also announced the outbreak an international emergency and is still unsure when the epidemic will end.
The symptoms of COVID-19, which was believed to start in a seafood market in Wuhan China, are fever, runny nose, cough, and can lead to breathing difficulty, almost similar to those of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which claimed nearly 800 lives worldwide in 2002-2003.
Coronavirus Spreads Quickly and Can be Deadly
Some experts claimed that the SARS mortality rate is much higher than that of COVID-19. However, COVID-19 spreads more quickly as it had killed more than 500 in month while it took four months for SARS to sicken 1,000.
“Viral spread is a combination of mechanism of transmission – in the case of COVID – 19 by droplets and close contact with symptomatic patients and patient secretions most probably and of the infective load needed to infect a person,” Leshem explained when asked about the quick widespread of the virus.
Africa Has Admitted it is Not Ready to Deal With Coronavirus
The WHO disclosed Africa’s vulnerability to the COVID-19 due to its inadequate health care facilities. The Geneva-based institution has sent kits to 29 laboratories on the continent, aimed at making sure that those laboratories can test reagents shipped from China and Europe, as BBC reported.
“We know how fragile the health system is on the African continent and these systems are already overwhelmed by many ongoing disease outbreaks, so for us it is critical to detect earlier so that we can prevent the spread,” Michael Yao, WHO’s head of emergency operations in Africa, told BBC.
Zambia is one of the countries in Africa that the WHO is monitoring closely due to its frequent business trips to China. One of the Chinese companies operating in Zambia is based in Wuhan, where the COVID-19 infection started. Hundreds of workers have traveled from and to China and Zambia in the past few weeks alone.
“Some countries in Africa are suffering from limited public health resources and underfunded healthcare systems. Sustained transmission of COVID 19 in one of the large cities of Africa such as Lagos, or Kinshasa may result tens of thousands of infections and thousands of deaths due to lack of resources to contain the outbreak and treat high number of patients,” Leshem explained. “The World Health Organization is supporting local governments in Africa to prepare for COVID 19 introduction and donor countries should provide emergency funding. Global health security is being discussed for years, and preparedness funding is in place, so hopefully, activities to scale up surveillance are underway in Africa as in other continents,” he added.