How does the coronavirus spread in Africa? Why are there so many younger patients?

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International data show that the median age in Africa is 25 years less than in Italy, and the prevalence of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue, cholera, typhoid fever, and measles has increased significantly with age. There is also a high risk of being exposed to infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Many African countries have made improvements in health security in recent years, including the introduction of universal health care and improved access to basic health services, as well as the development of health infrastructure. Health experts fear the inevitable outbreak in the world’s poorest continent could turn into an unprecedented disaster. 

At the moment there is no evidence that warm weather inhibits the spread of the virus. Coronavirus pandemics, which are spreading worldwide, have been slow to spread in Africa, but there appear to be more confirmed cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Uganda than in any african country. Many Africans themselves have no access to modern health facilities, and many African nations have little or no opportunity to test for potential cases. Many African countries simply do not have the healthcare to care for seriously ill patients. Last week, the South African Academy of Sciences warned that people living with HIV are twice as likely to be hospitalized with pneumonia caused by the flu virus as they are to die from it. As cases continue to increase in South Africa, scientists are ready to explore potential therapies. The increase in testing capacity has also led to an increase in the number of SARS-CoV-2 tests available in the country. The CDC is also organizing training for trainers to train local doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, said the director of the CDC’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When the first reports of the coronavirus came from China, global health officials expressed concern about what would happen if the virus spread to Africa, where many health systems are already struggling. Given that 60 to 70% of Africans are younger than 30, Africa has a certain future, blessed with a young population, Nkengasong said, but challenged by a fragile health system and endemic diseases if cases increase sharply. The virus can spread through contact with infected people such as pregnant women and children in vulnerable communities, according to the CDC. The past week has led to unrest and confusion that can only help the spread of the disease, including state-sponsored violence. 

Many sources say there have been recent lockouts and nighttime curfews in Africa. South Africa closed schools, banned visitors from high-risk countries and quickly opened a driveway at a testing centre in Johannesburg. In Africa, borders and airspace have largely been closed, and people cannot cross them for fear of government reprisals. While cross-border airspace is treated as an exception, humanitarian organisations are concerned and fear that they will not be able to transport aid on time. Sudan, Angola, Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya have a moderate import risk and varying levels of preparedness for the outbreak. The risk was underscored when Egypt became the first African country to register a confirmed case of the coronavirus on February 14. Although the second case in Africa was only recorded in Algeria at the end of February, the continent was late in becoming infected with the virus. African nations have taken some of the earliest steps in the world, cutting off air travel to Asia. Many countries are prioritising the World Health Organisation in order to obtain additional measures such as improved airport screening and stricter screening procedures. Liberia has mobilised a contact tracing programme for its citizens to minimise the spread of the coronavirus. The international spread from Africa comes from Europe, as some of the worst-hit areas of the world have imported their infected people to the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, China.

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