Up to 65 percent of Africans have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, a World Health Organization (WHO) analysis finds.
The analysis revealed that the true number of infections on the continent could be as much as 97 times higher than the number of confirmed reported cases.
This compares to the global average where the true number of infections is 16 times higher than the number of confirmed reported cases, according to a statement released Thursday by the WHO Regional Office for Africa.
Exposure to the virus varied between countries and Africa’s sub-regions. Seroprevalence appears to be highest in Eastern, Western and Central African regions, said the statement, noting that the continent differentiates itself from other regions by its high number of asymptomatic cases, with 67 percent of cases having no symptoms.
“This under-counting is occurring world-wide and it’s no surprise that the numbers are particularly large in Africa where there are so many cases with no symptoms,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, at an online press conference held Thursday, stressing that routine testing remains a critical component of the COVID-19 pandemic in all countries.
“Testing enables us to track the virus in real-time, monitor its evolution and assess the emergence of new variants. Countries must ramp up testing, contact tracing and surveillance so we can stay a step ahead of COVID-19,” said Moeti.
Africa has had milder COVID-19 cases compared with other parts of the world because there is a comparatively smaller proportion of people with risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases that are associated with more severe cases and deaths. Africa’s youthful population is also a protective factor, according to the WHO.
“Despite Africa’s declining infections and high exposure to the virus, we cannot declare victory yet against COVID-19,” noted Moeti.
“The seroprevalence analysis shows just how much the virus continues to circulate, particularly with new highly transmissible variants. The risks of more lethal variants emerging which overwhelm immunity gained from past infections cannot be brushed aside. Vaccination remains a key weapon in the fight against COVID-19,” Moeti said. Enditem