ZIMBABWE does not have the laboratory capacity to detect the new Wuhan coronavirus thus relying on South Africa, HealthTimes has learnt.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
No confirmed nor suspected cases have been recorded in Zimbabwe.
Detecting the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, subsequently identifying cases of Avian Flue in 2005, Zimbabwe at the moment does not the laboratory capacity to handle this novel coronavirus as per Health Ministry’s chief director for Preventive Services Dr Gibson Mhlanga’s response to HealthTimes’ question on Zim’s lab preparedness.
“No we send to South Africa,” he said.
With the novel virus strain which left a trail of 213 dead Chinese and close to 10 000 cases, Zimbabwe however is on high alert.
About 130 people that arrived from China as of January 28 are undergoing routine screening done by Health Ministry officials to check on signs and symptoms.
The symptoms of the new coronavirus infection include fever, chest pain, chills, and difficulty in breathing, headache, sore throat, cough, pneumonia and kidney failure. The coronavirus infection is highly infectious and can be spread through the air via coughing and sneezing.
The World Health Organisation yesterday declared the n-CoV a public health emergency of international concern a call for countries to up their epidemic preparedness and response systems.
“It means we have to ensure we are well prepared in terms of epidemic preparedness and response. We need to focus on surveillance to detect possible cases. That starts at our borders. We need to have a case definition to quickly identify potential cases and a plan of how to manage them,” Dr Mhlanga explained.
A World Health Organization (WHO) official said the new virus “could overwhelm health systems we have in Africa.”
Dr. Michel Yao, emergency operations program manager in Africa, spoke to The Associated Press on Friday after WHO declared the new coronavirus a global health emergency and cited “countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it.”
Yao said WHO has listed high-priority countries with direct China flights or many visitors from China, where thousands of people have been infected.
The high-priority countries include Algeria, Angola, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
Within the next few days, at least 20 countries in Africa will be supplied with the reagent needed to test samples for the virus, Yao said.
He defended the precautionary measures amid other urgent health crises in Africa including outbreaks of Ebola and measles in Congo. “If turns out to be a mild virus, that’s perfectly fine. If it’s dangerous and you let it go and decimate people, you have failed in public health,” he said.
The United States, Australia, Russia, Japan, Pakistan and Italy said they would deny entry to all foreign visitors who had recently been in China, where the virus first emerged in December.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the coronavirus has now exceeded that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2002 and 2003 in mainland China. But nationwide, the number of people who have recovered has risen in recent days, suggesting that the fatality rate of the virus is relatively low.
China’s Health Commission reported on Sunday that there were 475 recoveries and 361 deaths nationwide. During the SARS outbreak, 349 people died in mainland China.
Health experts say they were encouraged by the steady rise in the number of recoveries and took it as evidence that the treatments meted out have been effective and evidence that the virus does not appear to be as deadly as SARS.
SARS had a mortality rate of 9.6 percent, and about 2 percent of those reported to have been infected with the new coronavirus have died.