New variants of Africa are causing more and more concern


Laboratory workers in the French laboratory

Specialized staff and materials are required for genome sequencing

Experts believe that the emergence of new coronavirus variants in Africa has contributed to the increase in both cases and mortality reported in many countries on the African continent.

There is also concern that these variants cannot be easily tracked because the tests required to identify these variants are not widely available.

What about the variant?

Most countries on the continent have a second wave of pandemics, and some countries such as Kenya, Egypt and Tunisia have a third wave.

This new wave of infection is believed to be associated with the emergence of more contagious variants.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a new variant of the virus emerged in South Africa last year, helping to record cases in the South African region.

A Medic writing notes at a hospital near Cape Town.

South Africa has the most cases on the continent

Elsewhere in Africa, this subspecies has also been recorded in Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesoto, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. I will.

Although it is very likely that they have reached other countries on the continent, few countries have the ability to perform the specialized genomic sequencing required to detect coronavirus variants.

In Nigeria, scientists We also identified a new variant of the virusCurrently, there is no evidence that it contributes to the increase in infection.

This subspecies was identified in a sample collected from a patient in Lagos in late November and was detected in four other states in the country.

WHO and Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched Last year’s network of laboratories seeking to enhance the continent’s ability to identify these variants..

It said the emergence of new, more contagious mutants “enhanced the need for enhanced genomic surveillance.”

This involves analyzing the code of the virus to understand its genetic makeup.

However, a recent article by The Lancet points out that efforts are underway to expand this type of work. There were funding issues and a shortage of reagents and staff with the necessary skills.

What happens to the case number?

According to the CDC, new cases across the continent have increased by 2% in the past month.

However, the number of deaths decreased by 2%.

New cases are increasing in northern and eastern Africa (countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Libya and Tunisia), but are declining in southern and western Africa.

Click here to see the BBC Interactive

In Central Africa, that percentage remains about the same.

“Africa is not yet out of the woods and complacency is not an option at this time,” says Richard Mihigo, head of vaccination at the WHO Africa office.

Most countries Covid-19 vaccination campaign startedHowever, there are still some countries that deploy or obtain vaccines.

And many countries have focused on priority groups such as health care workers during the early vaccination phase.

Mortality is rising

In the first stages of the pandemic, Africa’s overall case fatality rate (the percentage of people who have Covid and then die) was lower than elsewhere in the world.

Many theories have been put forward as to why this happens, including the relatively young population and the potential for cross-immunity from other coronaviruses.

Coffin carried by funeral workers in Zimbabwe

Funeral workers preparing for burial near Harare, Zimbabwe

However, the Africa CDC is now warning of rising mortality on the continent, with 21 of the 55 monitored countries reporting mortality rates above the current global average of 2.2%. It states that there is.

Case fatality rates in Africa rose from an average of 2.1% in July last year to 2.7% in April of this year (measured over the pandemic).

According to WHO, case fatality rates continue to rise, with the latest data for the past month at 3.7%.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the world’s case fatality rate has declined, and by itself is above the world average for more African countries.

Mortality is also affected by the amount of testing performed. In countries with low levels of testing, mortality is high because many non-fatal cases of Covid are not detected.

Click here to see the BBC Interactive

More importantly, mortality data should be treated with caution due to the large variability in how countries record them.

In South Africa, an increase in 153,668 deaths between May 6th last year and April 10th this year, according to a survey of over-deaths (the number of deaths over a specific period of time that exceeds what is normally expected).

The official death toll from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic is just over 53,000.

And South Africa was just one of eight countries on the continent BBC found in a recent survey There was a proper death registration system.

Therefore, coronavirus deaths throughout Africa may be underrecorded.

There are many variations in test rates, with some countries reducing tests, while others maintain or increase tests at different points during the pandemic.

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