As the African continent speeds up its response to the coronavirus spreading from China, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Sunday a $10 million commitment in emergency funds and additional tech support to help responders in China and Africa contain the spread of 2019-nCoV.
Half is going to China, while the other half “will assist the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in scaling up public health measures against 2019-nCoV among African Union member states,” the foundation said.
“These measures will include technical support to implement the screening and treatment of suspected cases, laboratory confirmation of 2019-nCoV diagnoses and the safe isolation and care of identified cases.”
Although no cases are confirmed in African nations, health officials in Côte d’Ivoire said Sunday that they are investigating a suspected case in a student arriving in Abidjan from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the outbreak. It is the first such case on the continent, though many African nations – Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa among them – have instituted response measures.
“Africa is at high risk for the spread of the (virus) due to the large volume of air traffic between China and the continent,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC. “We are working closely with WHO, Africa’s National Public Health Institutes network, multiple partners and donors to coordinate efforts.”
A preliminary assessment of risk to specific African nations, linked here, is available from MOBS Lab, a scientific community network based at Northeastern University in the United States. The EcoHealth Alliance offers an interactive air travel mapping tool that shows routine flights from China to other locations, while the Journal of Travel Medicine also models the potential spread among countries.
The mayor of Addis Ababa, the top aviation gateway to the continent, issued a statement Monday.
“In coordination with Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), Addis Ababa Public Health Emergency Management is onboard to screen for the coronavirus at Bole International Airport,” said Takele Uma Banti. “We have also instituted an isolation center that is equipped to accommodate passengers.”
Nkengasong led discussions with member nations on Wednesday, as global concern over China’s outbreak increased with the spread of cases to other nations. The latest information from China’s National Health Commission, released Monday morning, put the total at 80 deaths and 2,762 confirmed cases. A real-time dashboard is available for monitoring cases in China, which have spread to nearly all provinces.
The virus also has spread to more than a dozen countries as the World Health Organization (WHO) considers a designation of Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for the epidemic. The PHEIC is a designation for an “extraordinary event” with the potential for international disease spread.