WHO ships reagent test kits to 20 African countries for early detection of coronavirus infection
London, Feb. 3, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Millions of reagent test kits are on the way to Africa courtesy of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in efforts to scale up efforts in Africa to fight the novel coronavirus infection
With the reagent test kits, WHO is supporting African countries to implement recommendations from the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, which met in Geneva, Switzerland on January 30.
To ensure rapid detection of the virus, WHO is supporting countries to improve their laboratories’ testing capacity. Since this is a new virus, there are currently only two referral labs in Africa that have the reagents test kits to conduct the tests.
Reagent kits are being shipped to more than 20 countries on the continent, and diagnostic capacity is expected to increase over the coming days.
Already, WHO has created a list of high priority countries in which it is focusing much of its energy, which includes countries that either have a direct flight to China or have large amounts of travellers from China,
This includes Algeria, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
While there have not been any confirmed cases of the virus in Africa, there have been suspected cases in countries including Kenya and Mauritania, Suspected cases in Ethiopia and Ivory Coast have tested negative.
If the virus does enter the continent, there is concern about it infiltrating high-density areas across the continent, such as slums and displacement camps.
“In Africa we have many factors that can easily increase the number of cases, such as if cases enter these highly dense communities,” WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said. “This is actually our main concern.”
On the advice of the Emergency Committee, the WHO director-general declared the virus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on Thursday.
The Emergency Committee recommends that all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of infection, and to share full data with the organisation.
WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti sent out a guidance note to all countries on how to prepare for a possible outbreak.
“It is critical that countries step up their readiness and in particular put in place effective screening mechanisms at airports and other major points of entry to ensure that the first cases are detected quickly,” said Dr Moeti.
To protect themselves against the virus, WHO recommends that people practice good hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices. These include washing hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub, covering the mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing, avoiding close contact with anyone with flu-like symptoms, cooking food, especially meat, thoroughly, and avoiding direct unprotected contact with live animals.
ECOWAS, the East African Community secretariat have issued alert to all partner states recommending increased surveillance and control measures at international airports and other points of entry.
Tanzania, Ghana, Morocco have designated hospitals in preparedness for the outbreak in their respective countries