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Lessons leave Africa better prepared for future pandemics, agency says

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-24 09:46
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A healthcare worker administers the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a woman, amidst spread of the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dec 4, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expressed confidence that the continent is now better prepared to deal with any likely pandemic and disease outbreaks, including monkeypox.

The African Union's public health agency said in addition to gaining experience in dealing with previous infectious disease outbreaks, it has drawn valuable lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic that will continue to apply in dealing with future pandemics and outbreaks.

Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of the Africa CDC, said from all the lessons learned during the pandemic, the Africa CDC is picking the ones that are easy to sustain for public health and will engage AU member states to keep them in check.

Toward that end, he said the Africa CDC is working on a white paper to provide information on how COVID-19 interacted with noncommunicable diseases.

Noting that new disease outbreaks will continue to occur anywhere as seen with the monkeypox and wild polio, Ogwell said in the event of a future outbreak, the Africa CDC and AU member states will mobilize public health assets that are required to do a good diagnosis to identify, respond and contain hot spots.

As the world strives to control monkeypox that continues to spread in nonendemic countries, Africa, which has endemic countries, has experienced outbreaks of the viral disease since last year and has been able to contain them.

Data from the World Health Organization indicated that 1,315 cases of monkeypox infection and 67 deaths were reported in Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria between Dec 15 and May 1.

Ogwell said while the continent has been able to contain the outbreaks, the current outbreaks in multiple countries are raising concerns.

"When you see monkeypox in environments that are far away from a forested area, then as far as public health is concerned, it raises a lot of questions that need to be answered," he said.

Ogwell said the Africa CDC is engaging with the European CDC to understand the source of recent monkeypox outbreaks in European countries.

He also said Africa is ready to share its expertise, knowledge and lessons learned in controlling monkeypox outbreaks.

Juma Maleve, a Kenyan health practitioner, feels that while African countries have been able to commendably battle the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer deaths reported compared with many other countries, the continent still faces many challenges coping with future pandemics.

He said the continent has been wanting testing capacities and lacks properly trained personnel in various specialties. In addition, its high poverty rate always makes it hard to access proper medical care on time.

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