African countries recorded the lowest number of COVID19 cases globally. Here are 3 reasons.

Can Coronavirus “survive” in Africa?

On a serious note, what scientists found shocking is the unrealistically low number of cases recorded for COVID19. For the 54 countries in Africa, there were 253 cases out of the 167,519 cases worldwide recorded since the first global outbreak.

This raises three questions:

  • Is it due to effective border control
  • Does it reflect a lack of testing and reporting
  • Or other unknown factors.

Africa is a continent experienced in dealing with several pandemics that caused more fatality than we have experienced in recent years. Thanks to WHO, UN and other NGOs, it means the communities are well aware and mentally prepared – from basic containment strategies to other preventive measures.

Take Lesotho for example, with 2 million population, the nation went into lockdown despite registering zero cases. In Nigeria with 200 million population, social media is buzzing with advice and tips on COVID19 including preventive measures amongst netizens.

Here are three possible explanations behind Africa’s shockingly low number of COVID19 cases.

1. Immune System & Genetics

African man has higher immune system to withstand coronavirus

Scientists have discovered that Africans have higher immune system than people in Europe.

A Canada-US study led by Luis Barreiro, a professor at the University of Montreal’s Department of Pediatrics and researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center. Luis Barreiro specializes in the evolution of immune responses and was named one of the “40 under 40” (most promising researchers) published in 2014 by the prestigious journal Cell.

The study demonstrated that Americans of African descent have a stronger immune response to infection compared to Americans of European descent.

The study, conducted with 175 Americans, found for the first time difference in immune responses between African-American and European-American. The result showed that it is mostly due to genetic — inherited from our ancestors and influenced by a relatively recent natural selection. The study is published in the scientific journal Cell.

Here is the article.

But what scientists have discovered is that the key to immunity lies in the antibodies produced by people who have been exposed to virus and bacteria attacks. And most Africans, they have gone through various plagues and virus attacks such as Ebola.  Could this explain why their immune system is higher than most people?

2. Natural Diet & Nutrition

Africa is a region with relatively low access to modern medicine, healthcare services and medical technologies. Accessibility to quality health services is limited to a smaller percentage of the population – mainly for the rich and privileged.

Besides being blessed by a higher immune system, African have relied on natural food and herbs as part of their daily diet.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 80% of the population in Africa relies on herbal remedies as a source of medication to treat diseases.

Generally, most people in Africa resort to the more affordable herbal medication to cure illnesses and diseases due to their ancestors and tradition. This trend is similar to what we have seen in Indonesia, China and Malaysia during COVID19 – where demand of herbal supplement and natural remedies have surged by five-fold during the crisis.

Local African herbs like Yohimbe are used widely by locals for years. Even exotic asian herbs from Malaysia such as Tongkat Ali received instant popularity in Africa.  E-commerce has allowed more Africans to shop online for quality herbal supplements directly from the source. 

The unpopular opinion that you don’t usually hear is that no-one died from taking herbal medication.

As for diet, Africans do not have access to the delicious-but-dangerously unhealthy food enjoyed by most Americans. Instead, typical diet for most Africans consist of locally available fruits such as, cereal grains and vegetables, as well as milk and meat products. Most food and dishes are naturally sourced as Africans rarely eat processed food or imported food.

Unless you live in the capital city, it is close to impossible to source imported processed foods in Africa. Even if you did find one, it may not be affordable by an average Africas. For the most part, processed food (canned food) is bad on your immune system due to the preservatives and other chemicals used – which can be cancerous in the longer term.

3. Air Traffic Movement

Lets face it. The number of airlines in and out of Africa is much less than in other parts of the world. Less flight means less people movement into and out of the countries. This translate to reduced exposure.

From data published by IATA, Botswana carried 220,000 airline passengers in 2017 compared to Italy at 27.8 million airline passengers in the same year.

From an absolute figure standpoint, the difference of 10x is high. In the context of a disease outbreak, the risk exposure is extremely low in Africa (compared to Italy).

As a comparison, the US recorded 840 million airline passengers annually. So imagine the magnitude of damage it can cause for citizens in the United States. Why this is an important point is that COVID19 has a higher than average transmission rate compared to other viral diseases.

The transmission coefficient for COVID19, known as the R(o) value, is between 2 to 3. This means an infected person can infect another two to three people easily through touch or droplets of air from cough, sneeze or even talking at a close range with a distance less than 1 meter.

Moreover, inbound and outbound traffic from Africa to China are relatively low due to existing trade and other economic activities between two continents.

So there you go. If you don’t agree with these reasons or if you think there are more than that, feel free to drop a comment below!

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