Until very recently, the African continent was free of coronavirus/ COVID-19, the deadly virus that emerged in central China at the end of last year and has since spread to more than two dozen countries around the world.
Then, three days ago, the first case of the virus was confirmed in Egypt. The man diagnosed with the virus was visiting Egypt, and has since been quarantined.
Even more unsettling than the realisation that the virus could be creeping onto our continent is the speech that Bill Gates gave mere hours before the confirmed diagnosis, at an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Seattle.
The Telegraph with some of the billionaire’s shocking revelations:
Mr Gates said: “I wanted to talk about a special topic, which is this recent coronavirus epidemic.
“This is a huge challenge, we’ve always known the potential for a naturally caused, or intentionally caused, pandemic is one if the few things that could disrupt health systems and economies and cause more than 10 million excess deaths.
“This could be particularly if it spreads in areas like sub-Saharan Africa and some Asia, it could be very, very dramatic.”
That’s a lot to unpack. Gates reckons that if COVID-19 reaches Africa, we could be looking at a death toll in the millions, which is something that you probably don’t want to think too hard about just before bed.
Gates says that they’re “doing constant science to provide the tools to do the diagnosis to provide vaccines”, and everything else needed to contain and eventually eliminate the virus, but it’s a “potentially very bad situation”.
He went on to reveal massive underinvestment in anti-virals, pointing out that while the world is equipped to deal with known entities like Ebola, we’re terribly underequipped for emerging threats.
“Ebola is terrible, but it’s not like a lightning flu,” he said.
“This coronavirus has a lot of similarities to a very bad flu, in terms of the death rate, so far more like the 1957 flu outbreak.
”But this is way worse than a typical seasonal flu and of course we have no immunity.
“Will this get into Africa or not and if so, will those health systems be overwhelmed?
Most of the excess deaths caused by Ebola tend to happen when health services shut down. The panic, overload, and things that affect health workers due to limited capacity also all contribute to the virus getting out of hand.
Gates is worried that this will be the case with COVID-19.
“This disease, if it’s in Africa it’s more dramatic than if it’s in China, even though I’m not trying to minimise what’s going on in China in any way.”
Before you panic, though, note that the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) are working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and African Member States to improve diagnosis and surveillance.
So, while health services could still pose a problem, rapid contact tracing – the kind used to locate patient zero in Britain – is stemming the spread of the contagion.
The case in Egypt has been contained.
Wash your hands regularly, and be vigilant if you come into contact with someone who has been travelling and displays flu-like symptoms.
[imagesource:flickr] SA's hottest chilli festival is geared up to get tongues burning t...
[imagesource:skinkraft] If you're struggling with scarring, acne scarring, or deep wrin...
[imagesource:wallpaperflair] I speak from experience when I say the hours before a prop...
[imagesource:instagram/trevornoah] Son of Patricia and our favourite comedic export, Tr...
[imagesource:flickr] We might have taken a few digs at the vegans this week, but surely...