Ethiopia’s Silent Spread

Tracking the coronavirus’s movements across sub-Saharan Africa has been difficult because of limited reporting and testing capacity.

A new Lancet Global Health study, however, adds valuable insights, showing that in Ethiopia, the virus was spreading fast at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021.
Surveying 1,104 health care workers and 1,229 community residents, the researchers found:

  • In Addis Ababa, SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence among hospital workers increased from 11% in August 2020 to 53.7% in February 2021.
  • In Jimma, Southwest Ethiopia, it rose from 30.8% in November 2020 to 56.1% in February 2021.

But, as an accompanying commentary notes, a high proportion of these cases went undiagnosed, underscoring the need to prioritize vaccinations across Africa, where just 2% of the population has been vaccinated.
Plus, most participants reported no COVID-19-related symptoms or hospital admissions, underscoring the need for more testing of asymptomatic individuals.

Related: A confusing COVID caseload: Why Africa’s missing numbers show a different side to the pandemic – Bhekisisa (commentary)

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