Official numbers may indicate that Africa is being spared the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak—but the continent is waiting for the “ticking time bomb” to explode, Science reports.
South Africa confirmed its first case 10 days ago, and now has 61. Researchers there are standing at the ready to study whether—like other respiratory infections—COVID-19 is exacerbated by HIV and TB.
Africa has seen less than 300 cases so far. Is that due to a lack of testing? Not entirely, The Intercept reports.
For one, the 2014 Ebola outbreak left many African countries logistically better-prepared for another outbreak. Many countries have already enacted strict control measures.
Most cases in Africa originated in travelers from European or east Asian countries—and countries including Ghana and Kenya have enacted blanket travel bans from outbreak hotspots. Rwanda is mandating a 1-meter distance between restaurant customers, CNBC reports.
But the cases that have emerged indicate that the disease has been spreading unchecked for weeks. And once it gains a foothold in overcrowded slums, “social distancing” will be near-impossible.
US Steps Up Fight
After President Trump declared a national emergency last Friday, the US stepped up efforts to slow the virus’s spread with a wave of closures—shuttering schools as well as bars and restaurants in big cities, and urging the cancelation of all events of 50 people or more until early May, NBC reports.
Health officials warn that such measures are necessary to keep hospitals from being swamped—recognizing that the country does not have enough resources, like ventilators, according to NPR shots.
An Emergency Alternative
Facing a growing pandemic without an effective vaccine or cure, 2 public health researchers write in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that institutions should consider the emergency use of “convalescent sera.”
Antibodies from recovered patients could be used to prevent or treat infection, write Arturo Casadevall, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Liise-anne Pirofski, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.