Category Archives: coronavirus

Malaria News Today 2020-09-22: covering three continents

Today’s stories cover three continents including Surveillance for imported malaria in Sri Lanka, community perceptions in Colombia and Annual Fluctuations in Malaria Transmission Intensity in 5 sub-Saharan countries. In addition there is an overview of microscopy standards and an Integrated Macroeconomic Epidemiological Demographic Model to aid in planning malaria elimination. We also see how COVID-19 is disturbing Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention activities in Burkina Faso. Read more by following the links in the sections below.

Will More of the Same Achieve Malaria Elimination?

Results from an Integrated Macroeconomic Epidemiological Demographic Model. Historic levels of funding have reduced the global burden of malaria in recent years. Questions remain, however, as to whether scaling up interventions, in parallel with economic growth, has made malaria elimination more likely today than previously. The consequences of “trying but failing” to eliminate malaria are also uncertain. Reduced malaria exposure decreases the acquisition of semi-immunity during childhood, a necessary phase of the immunological transition that occurs on the pathway to malaria elimination. During this transitional period, the risk of malaria resurgence increases as proportionately more individuals across all age-groups are less able to manage infections by immune response alone. We developed a robust model that integrates the effects of malaria transmission, demography, and macroeconomics in the context of Plasmodium falciparum malaria within a hyperendemic environment.

The authors analyzed the potential for existing interventions, alongside economic development, to achieve malaria elimination. Simulation results indicate that a 2% increase in future economic growth will increase the US$5.1 billion cumulative economic burden of malaria in Ghana to US$7.2 billion, although increasing regional insecticide-treated net coverage rates by 25% will lower malaria reproduction numbers by just 9%, reduce population-wide morbidity by ?0.1%, and reduce prevalence from 54% to 46% by 2034. As scaling up current malaria control tools, combined with economic growth, will be insufficient to interrupt malaria transmission in Ghana, high levels of malaria control should be maintained and investment in research and development should be increased to maintain the gains of the past decade and to minimize the risk of resurgence, as transmission drops. © The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene [open-access]

Microscopy standards to harmonise methods for malaria clinical research studies

Research Malaria Microscopy Standards (ReMMS) applicable to malaria clinical research studies have been published in Malaria Journal. The paper describes the rationale for proposed standards to prepare, stain and examine blood films for malaria parasites. The standards complement the methods manual(link is external) previously published by the World Health Organization and UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR). The standards aim to promote consistency and comparability of data from microscopy performed for malaria research and hence to strengthen evidence for improvements in malaria prevention, diagnostics and treatment.

Microscopy is important in both malaria diagnosis and research. It is used to differentiate between Plasmodium species and stages and to estimate parasite density in the blood – an important determinant of the severity of disease. It is also used to monitor the effectiveness of drugs based on the rate at which parasites recrudesce or are cleared from the blood.

While rapid diagnostic tests have replaced microscopy in some contexts, microscopy remains an essential tool to support clinical diagnosis and research. The standardisation of methods allows direct comparisons from studies conducted across different points in time and location. This facilitates individual participant data meta-analyses, recognised as the gold standard approach to generate evidence for improvements in interventions and hence patient outcomes.

Estimating Annual Fluctuations in Malaria Transmission Intensity and in the Use of Malaria Control Interventions in Five Sub-Saharan African Countries

RTS,S/AS01E malaria vaccine safety, effectiveness, and impact will be assessed in pre- and post-vaccine introduction studies, comparing the occurrence of malaria cases and adverse events in vaccinated versus unvaccinated children. Because those comparisons may be confounded by potential year-to-year fluctuations in malaria transmission intensity and malaria control intervention usage, the latter should be carefully monitored to adequately adjust the analyses. This observational cross-sectional study is assessing Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence (PfPR) and malaria control intervention usage over nine annual surveys performed at peak parasite transmission. Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence was measured by microscopy and nucleic acid amplification test (quantitative PCR) in parallel in all participants, and defined as the proportion of infected participants among participants tested. Results of surveys 1 (S1) and 2 (S2), conducted in five sub-Saharan African countries, including some participating in the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP), are reported herein; 4,208 and 4,199 children were, respectively, included in the analyses.

Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence estimated using microscopy varied between study sites in both surveys, with the lowest prevalence in Senegalese sites and the highest in Burkina Faso. In sites located in the MVIP areas (Kintampo and Kombewa), PfPR in children aged 6 months to 4 years ranged from 24.8% to 27.3%, depending on the study site and the survey. Overall, 89.5% and 86.4% of children used a bednet in S1 and S2, of whom 68.7% and 77.9% used impregnated bednets. No major difference was observed between the two surveys in terms of PfPR or use of malaria control interventions. © The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene [open-access]

Community perception of malaria in a vulnerable municipality in the Colombian Pacific

Malaria primarily affects populations living in poor socioeconomic conditions, with limited access to basic services, deteriorating environmental conditions, and barriers to accessing health services. Control programmes are designed without participation from the communities involved, ignoring local knowledge and sociopolitical and cultural dynamics surrounding their main health problems, which implies imposing decontextualized control measures that reduce coverage and the impact of interventions. The objective of this study was to determine the community perception of malaria in the municipality of Olaya Herrera in the Colombian Pacific.

A 41-question survey on knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) related to malaria, the perception of actions by the Department of Health, and access to the health services network was conducted. In spite of the knowledge about malaria and the efforts of the Department of Health to prevent it, the community actions do not seem to be consistent with this knowledge, as the number of cases of malaria is still high in the area.

Use of a Plasmodium vivax genetic barcode for genomic surveillance and parasite tracking in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was certified as a malaria-free nation in 2016; however, imported malaria cases continue to be reported. Evidence-based information on the genetic structure/diversity of the parasite populations is useful to understand the population history, assess the trends in transmission patterns, as well as to predict threatening phenotypes that may be introduced and spread in parasite populations disrupting elimination programmes. This study used a previously developed Plasmodium vivax single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) barcode to evaluate the population dynamics of P. vivax parasite isolates from Sri Lanka and to assess the ability of the SNP barcode for tracking the parasites to its origin.

A total of 51 P. vivax samples collected during 2005–2011, mainly from three provinces of the country, were genotyped for 40 previously identified P. vivax SNPs using a high-resolution melting (HRM), single-nucleotide barcode method. The proportion of multi-clone infections was significantly higher in isolates collected during an infection outbreak in year 2007. Plasmodium vivax parasite isolates collected during a disease outbreak in year 2007 were more genetically diverse compared to those collected from other years. In-silico analysis using the 40 SNP barcode is a useful tool to track the origin of an isolate of uncertain origin, especially to differentiate indigenous from imported cases. However, an extended barcode with more SNPs may be needed to distinguish highly clonal populations within the country.

Coronavirus rumours and regulations mar Burkina Faso’s malaria fight

By Sam Mednick, Thomson Reuters Foundation: MOAGA, Burkina Faso – Health worker Estelle Sanon would hold the 18-month-old and administer the SMC dose herself, but because of coronavirus she has to keep a distance from her patients. “If I am standing and watching the mother do it, it’s as if I’m not doing my work,” said Sanon, a community health volunteer assisting in a seasonal campaign to protect children in the West African country from the deadly mosquito-borne disease.

Burkina Faso is one of the 10 worst malaria-affected nations in the world, accounting for 3% of the estimated 405,000 malaria deaths globally in 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than two-thirds of victims are children under five. Now there are fears malaria cases could rise in Burkina Faso as restrictions due to coronavirus slow down a mass treatment campaign and rumours over the virus causing parents to hide their children, according to health workers and aid officials.

“COVID-19 has the potential to worsen Burkina Faso’s malaria burden,” said Donald Brooks, head of the U.S. aid group Initiative: Eau, who has worked on several public health campaigns in the country.  “If preventative campaigns can’t be thoroughly carried out and if people are too scared to come to health centres … it could certainly increase the number of severe cases and the risk of poor outcomes.”

During peak malaria season, from July to November, community health workers deploy across Burkina Faso to treat children with seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC). This is the second year the campaign will cover the whole country with more than 50,000 volunteers going door-to-door, said Gauthier Tougri, coordinator for the country’s anti-malaria programme. Logistics were already challenging. Violence linked to jihadists and local militias has forced more than one million people to flee their homes, shuttered health clinics and made large swathes of land inaccessible. Now the coronavirus has made the task even harder, health workers said.

People in Cape Verde evolved better malaria resistance in 550 years

Yes, we are still evolving. And one of the strongest examples of recent evolution in people has been found on the Cape Verde islands in the Atlantic, where a gene variant conferring a form of malaria resistance has become more common.

Portuguese voyagers settled the uninhabited islands in 1462, bringing slaves from Africa with them. Most of the archipelago’s half a million inhabitants are descended from these peoples. Most people of West African origin have a variant in a gene called DARC that protects.

Deadly malaria and cholera outbreaks grow amongst refugees as COVID pandemic strains health systems.

Apart from the strain on health facilities during the pandemic, in some countries such as Somalia, Kenya and Sierra Leone, we are seeing that a fear of exposure to COVID-19 has prevented parents from taking their children to hospital, delaying diagnosis and treatment of malaria and increasing preventable deaths. COVID restrictions in some countries have also meant pregnant women have missed antimalarial drugs. Untreated malaria in pregnant women can increase the risk of anaemia, premature births, low birth weight and infant death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of programs designed to fight HIV, tuberculosis and malaria have been disrupted due to the pandemic and 46% of 68 countries report experiencing disruptions in the treatment and diagnosis of malaria.

Malaria News Weekend 2020-09-05/6

We are sharing more updates from newsletters and journal abstracts found online. Issues include mapping malaria in connection with climate change, COVID-19 possibly inhibiting reporting o malaria cases, co-infection with coronavirus and malaria or dengue, Plasmodium knowlesi in northern India, and the effect of sanitation campaigns on infectious diseases. Click on links to read details.

Malaria kills 400,000 people a year, A new map shows where climate change will make it worse

A new study examines the impact of climate change on malaria in Africa. The maps reveal which areas will become more – or less – climatically suitable. Of an estimated 228 million cases of malaria worldwide each year, around 93% are in Africa. This proportion is more or less the same for the 405,000 malaria deaths globally.

That’s why there are huge efforts underway to provide detailed maps of current malaria cases in Africa, and to predict which areas will become more susceptible in future, since such maps are vital to control and treat transmission. Mosquito populations can respond quickly to climate change, so it is also important to understand what global warming means for malaria risk across the continent.

If it is too warm or too cold, then either the malaria parasite or the mosquito that transmits the parasite between humans will not survive. This suitable temperature range is relatively well established by field and laboratory studies and forms the basis for current projections of the impact of climate change on malaria. Yet, surface water is equally crucial as it provides habitat for the mosquitoes to lay their eggs. See original article in Nature Communications.

Malaria Situation in the Peruvian Amazon during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Malaria Situation in the Peruvian Amazon during the COVID-19 Pandemic. This article was originally published in Am J Trop Med Hyg. (2020 Sep 3. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.20-0889). Online ahead of print. The Peruvian Ministry of Health reports a near absence of malaria cases in the Amazon region during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the rapid increase in SARS-CoV-2 infections has overwhelmed the Peruvian health system, leading to national panic and closure of public medical facilities, casting doubt on how accurately malaria cases’ numbers reflect reality. In the Amazon region of Loreto, where malaria cases are concentrated, COVID-19 has led to near-complete closure of the primary healthcare system, and diagnosis and treatment of acute febrile illnesses, including malaria, has plummeted. Here, we describe the potential association of COVID-19 with a markedly reduced number of reported malaria cases due to the reduced control activities carried out by the Peruvian Malaria Zero Program, which could lead to malaria resurgence and an excess of morbidity and mortality.

Dengue, malaria a new threat for Covid patients

Doctors in at least two Delhi hospitals have reported patients with twin infections of Covid-19 and dengue or malaria, a trend that could become worrying since the double disease may be deadlier, and the region is entering its most critical season for mosquito-transmitted diseases. The anecdotal reports tie in with latest findings that suggest a high prevalence of co-infections of diseases such as malaria, dengue and leptospirosis, which together have several symptoms that overlap with a symptomatic Covid-19 illness. Andhra villages see big drop in dengue, malaria, typhoid cases after pilot sanitation drive. Andhra govt data shows cases of seasonal diseases like dengue, typhoid, acute diarrhoea & malaria fell 97.4%, 96%, 81.7% and 50.4%, respectively, after the sanitation drive.

Now, months after the launch of the drive called ‘Manam Mana Parishubhratha’ (Our Cleanliness and Us), these villages have recorded a massive drop in the numbers of patients reporting with seasonal diseases like dengue, typhoid, malaria and acute diarrhoea. a 50.4% decrease in malaria cases (601), said the data.

AIIMS study finds zoonotic malarial parasite in acute febrile illnesses patients.

A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be spread/jump from animals to humans and vice versa. AIIMS researchers have sounded a note of caution after finding the presence of monkey malarial parasite ‘Plasmodium knowlesi’ in the north Indian population while doing a study on patients with acute febrile illnesses (AFI) and pathogens causing them.

The presence of the zoonotically transmitted malaria parasite was found during the study of acute febrile illnesses and causative pathogens in certain patients admitted in AIIMS from July 2017 to September 2018. The All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) researchers from the Department of Biochemistry, along with clinicians from the Department of Medicine, were involved in the study on the pathogens causing severe fever.

 

 

Malaria News Today 2020-09-02

Updates from newsletters and journal abstracts found online today. Issues include health and malaria service disruptions from COVID-19, increased mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, in India and mosquitoes and attractant odors. Click on links to read details.

Continuing vital health services in Guinea-Bissau during COVID-19

ReliefWeb explains that as lockdowns, curfews and transport disruptions prevent many vulnerable people from getting healthcare, communities are stepping into the breach. Community health workers and volunteers are ensuring their peers, friends, and neighbours are protected from disease. “In previous bednet distribution campaigns, we used to identify the families before setting up the distribution points,” said Ivannildo Vieira, a community health worker, “but this year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, it was decided to do door-to-door distributions in order not to gather people in a single distribution area.”

Helping communities protect themselves from diseases like malaria in Guinea-Bissau is no simple task. Located on West Africa’s coast, Guinea-Bissau is one of the world’s poorest and most fragile countries. Malaria is the leading cause of death among pregnant women and children under five. Malaria prevention measures have been complicated by a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Delhi records 24% rise in Dengue, Malaria in 7 days

While Delhi’s healthcare is overwhelmed with tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, another epidemic of vector-borne diseases are knocking at its door. A whopping rise of 24 per cent in Dengue, Malaria, and Chikungunya cases were recorded in the last one week.  The cities/corporations stated that they reported incidents of mosquito-breeding at 44,259 households and served 35,103 legal notices to the violators. Meanwhile, 1,512 prosecutions were launched against the violations.

Is Anopheles gambiae attraction to floral and human skin-based odours and their combination modulated by previous blood meal experience?

Malaria Journal notes that Mosquitoes use odours to find energy resources, blood hosts and oviposition sites. While these odour sources are normally spatio-temporally segregated in a mosquito’s life history, here this study explored to what extent a combination of flower- and human-mimicking synthetic volatiles would attract the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto (s.s.).

Nulliparous and parous A. gambiae s.s. are attracted to combinations of odours derived from spatio-temporally segregated resources in mosquito life-history (floral and human volatiles). This is favourable as mosquito populations are comprised of individuals whose nutritional and developmental state steer them to diverging odours sources, baits that attract irrespective of mosquito status could enhance overall effectiveness and use in monitoring and control. However, combinations of floral and skin odours did not augment attraction in semi-field settings, in spite of the fact that these blends activate distinct sets of sensory neurons. Instead, mosquito preference appeared to be modulated by blood meal experience from floral to a more generic attraction to odour blends. Results are discussed both from an odour coding, as well as from an application perspective.

Malaria Leaves 100 Dead in South Sudan

The East African reports that South Sudan’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) say at least 100 people died of malaria in the  In a joint report released on Sunday, the two institutions said morbidity and mortality trends in the Protection of Civilians Sites across the country, as of July, indicated rampant deaths due to malaria infections.

Zero Malaria Starts after Lockdown?

The novel 2019 coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 and SARS-COV2, is casting a heavy shadow over the 2020 World Malaria Day. People are trying to remain upbeat declaring the tagline “zero malaria starts with me,” but nothing can hide the fear that the current pandemic will both disrupt the current delivery of essential malaria preventive and treatment services, but will have longer term impacts on malaria funding and our capacity to learn new ways to reach malaria elimination goals. As we can see in the graphic to the right, accessible, lifesaving, community-based services may be especially hard hit.

Another ironic image is the indoor residual spray (IRS) team member with a face mask needed for protection from the insecticides being sprayed. When will such teams be able to go back into homes? When can household members actually pack out their belongings so that spraying can commence? When will such masks not be needed for intensive care COVID-19 case management instead?

WHO is urging “countries to move quickly to save lives from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa” because “New analysis supports the WHO call to minimize disruptions to malaria prevention and treatment services during the COVID-19 pandemic.” This will be difficult in high burden countries like Nigeria that are already on lockdown with over 1,000 coronavirus cases detected already. Modeling by WHO and partners has projected, “Severe disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and in access to antimalarial medicines could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year compared to 2018.”

The Global Malaria Program offers guidance for tailoring malaria interventions to the present circumstances. Great concern is drawn from previous epidemic situations when observing that, “it is essential that other killer diseases, such as malaria, are not ignored. We know from the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa that a sudden increased demand on fragile health services can lead to substantial increases in morbidity and mortality from other diseases, including malaria. The COVID-19 pandemic could be devastating on its own – but this devastation will be substantially amplified if the response undermines the provision of life-saving services for other diseases.”

Specifically, GMP recommends that national malaria programs should ensure the following:

  • a focal point for malaria is a member of the National COVID-19 Incident Management Team.
  • continued engagement with all relevant national COVID-19 stakeholders and partners.
  • continued access to and use of recommended insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs)
  • continuation of planned targeted indoor residual spraying (IRS)
  • early care-seeking for fever and suspected malaria by the general population to prevent a spike in severe malaria
  • access to case management services in health facilities and communities with diagnostic confirmation through rapid diagnostic tests [RDTs]
  • treatment of confirmed malaria cases with approved protocols
  • continued delivery of planned preventive services normally provided to specific target populations (SMC, IPTi, IPTp)
  • the safety of all malaria personnel and their clients in the process of carrying out the above interventions

In editorial in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene by Yanow and Good address the damaging longer term impact of the present shutdown. “The impacts of research shutdowns will be felt long after the pandemic. Many scientists study diseases that do not share the same obvious urgency as COVID-19 and yet take a shocking toll on human life. For example, malaria infects more than 200 million people and takes the lives of nearly half a million people, mostly young children, each year.1 During laboratory closures and without clinical studies, there will be no progress toward treating and preventing malaria: no progress toward new drugs, vaccines, or diagnostics.”

The case for continuing malaria services to save hundreds of thousands of lives is not difficult to make. The actual implementation during lockdowns and quarantines is a management challenge. The importance of malaria testing to provide patients with appropriate care for the right disease is crucial. The question is whether in resource strapped endemic countries these decisions and management arrangements can be made in a timely fashion and for the long term whether the next generation of research can proceed with much needed new medicines and technologies.

COVID19 Challenges for African Researchers

Not surprisingly COVID-19 related travel restrictions and bans now occur throughout the world, and for African researchers, this means inability to travel for research related collaborations, planning meetings and conferences. Thus, it becomes necessary to ask, “What can we do here at home,” especially considering increasing restrictions on local movement and gatherings.

In the very short time since COVID-19 was finally and officially recognized in China, many research articles have been published. Although these obviously focus on China, they raise possible research questions that need to be addressed in Africa, especially those countries still at the early stages of the epidemic.

Obviously, studies on the clinical management are needed, and one group of Chinese researchers are examining “biological products have broadly applied in the prevention and treatment of severe epidemic diseases, they are promising in blocking novel coronavirus infection,” especially based on reports from previous coronavirus experiences like SARS and MERS.[1] Other studies have examined the role of managing blood glucose levels[2], anticoagulant treatment[3] and the potential of antiviral treatment,[4] among others. What aspects of clinical management will become important to African patients’ survival?

In the process of requesting adequate diagnostic, monitoring and treatment supplies and equipment generally for the country, the tertiary and research hospitals need to ensure they have made requests for the equipment and supplies that are needed not just to provide life-saving treatment, but also to test appropriate approaches in the local setting. Each setting is different and must be studied because already there are anecdotal reports of younger age groups being affected by severe disease in the USA compared to earlier reports from China.

Taking a lesson from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, there is need to study how COVID-19 will affect the delivery of health care, especially malaria services. Patrick Walker and colleagues[5] modeled the effects of health systems disruption on malaria including challenges in receiving based treatment when clinics were overwhelmed, seen as possible sources of disease and finally shut down as health workers themselves died. Outreach services like insecticide-treated net distribution were also stopped, and the efforts of community health workers were curtailed. To what extent is that happening with COVID-19?

Until there are proven drugs and vaccines, it is extremely important to learn about local epidemiology[6] in order to develop appropriate strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This effort should involve researchers from many disciplines such as public health specialists, anthropologists, sociologists, educationists, and psychologists.

While the medical research mentioned above is carried out in hospitals and clinics, people conducting social and epidemiological studies ideally should be in the community where we can observe people washing their hands or not, gathering in groups or not, and finding out why they do these things. We need formative research to help develop health education, and at the same time ensure social and educational scientists can gather information to evaluate whether the health education as appropriate and worked.

Likewise, research is needed on health systems[7] and must involve political scientists, economists, public administrators, and of course public health specialists, also. A great danger exists for people who cannot keep a social distance from themselves such as those incarcerated in prison and living in camps for refugees and internally displaced people,[8] a common problem throughout the continent. They too need to get into the organizations and systems that provide care and learn what the policy makers and decision makers are thinking.

As Bronwyn Bruton has observed,[9] “Some 40 percent of Africans live in water-stressed environments in which obtaining access to clean water—let alone soap—is an insurmountable daily hurdle, and for those populations, even simple measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such as frequent handwashing, will be out of reach.” In addition he asks difficult questions about what happens to children who are home and cannot go to school, the vast numbers of people in the informal economy who cannot rely on a salary, if they stay home, and the many people in conflict zones. These are questions that urgently need to be studied in Africa.

Answers to our COVID-19 research questions are needed urgently, probably much sooner than funding can be found to support such research.  The question for our African research colleagues is what can be done now with resources at hand in an environment where movement is restricted? We will definitely need speedy responses from our Institutional Ethics Review Boards and be creative in our use of research methods.

Roxana Elliott[10] reports that data collection in the diverse African region “is difficult, especially when measuring statistics such as mobile penetration, which require face-to-face data collection in order to include those who cannot be reached via mobile. Language barriers, lack of infrastructure, and the sheer number of people throughout Sub-Saharan Africa make collecting face-to-face data nearly impossible due to cost and time constraints, especially in rural areas.” She, therefore, suggests that mobile-based surveying methodologies can alleviate these issues. She also recommends a country-by-country approach, and hence we see that in 2017 an estimate of 32% of the population had a smartphone 48% a basic phone, and 20% no phone.

How can social and health researchers design studies using this mobile resource to answer vital COVID-19 questions in the nearest future? If our students are now at home, can they, for example, be contacted to observe, at a safe distance, the human health related actions in their communities? Can they interview family members to learn why people practice prevention or not? Can they relate family experiences seeking health services for suspected respiratory illness?  Can they report on the water supply situation in the rural and urban areas where they are staying?

There are the questions which African colleagues can debate at a proper social distance (via phone, zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, and others), and come up with creative ways to find answers to prevent a worsening epidemic in Africa.

References

[1] Yan CX, Li J, Shen X, Luo L, Li Y, Li MY. [Biological Product Development Strategies for Prevention and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019. Article in Chinese] Sichuan Da Xue Xue Bao Yi Xue Ban. 2020 Mar;51(2):139-145. doi: 10.12182/20200360506. (English abstract in PubMed).

[2] Ma WX, Ran XW. [The Management of Blood Glucose Should be Emphasized in the Treatment of COVID-19. Article in Chinese]. Sichuan Da Xue Xue Bao Yi Xue Ban. 2020 Mar;51(2):146-150. doi: 10.12182/20200360606.

[3] Tang N, Bai H, Chen X, Gong J, Li D, Sun Z.Anticoagulant treatment is associated with decreased mortality in severe coronavirus disease 2019 patients with coagulopathy. J Thromb Haemost. 2020 Mar 27. doi: 10.1111/jth.14817. [Epub ahead of print]

[4] Wu J, Li W, Shi X, Chen Z, Jiang B, Liu J, Wang D, Liu C, Meng Y, Cui L, Yu J, Cao H, Li L. Early antiviral treatment contributes to alleviate the severity and improve the prognosis of patients with novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).J Intern Med. 2020 Mar 27. doi: 10.1111/joim.13063. [Epub ahead of print]

[5] Patrick G T Walker, Michael T White, Jamie T Griffin, Alison Reynolds, Neil M Ferguson, Azra C Ghani. Malaria morbidity and mortality in Ebola-affected countries caused by decreased health-care capacity, and the potential effect of mitigation strategies: a modelling analysis. www.thelancet.com/infection Published online April 24, 2015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(15)70124-6

[6] Luan RS, Wang X, Sun X, Chen XS, Zhou T, Liu QH, Lü X, Wu XP, Gu DQ, Tang MS, Cui HJ, Shan XF, Ouyang J, Zhang B, Zhang W, Sichuan University Covid-ERG.[Epidemiology, Treatment, and Epidemic Prevention and Control of the Coronavirus Disease 2019: a Review. Article in Chinese]. Sichuan Da Xue Xue Bao Yi Xue Ban. 2020 Mar;51(2):131-138. doi: 10.12182/20200360505.

[7] Philip Obaji, Kim Hjelmgaard and Chris Erasmus Coronavirus infections in Africa are rapidly rising. Its weak health systems may buckle. USA Today. Updated 27 March 2020, Accessed 29 March 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2020/03/27/coronavirus-africa-preparedness-rising-covid-19-infections/5076620002/

[8] Nick Turse. In West African Coronavirus Hotspot, War Has Left 700,000 Homeless and Exposed. The Intercept. March 26 2020, 5:33 p.m. https://theintercept.com/2020/03/26/burkina-faso-africa-coronavirus/

[9] Bronwyn Bruton. What does the coronavirus mean for Africa?. Atlantic Council. Tue, Mar 24, 2020. https://atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/africasource/what-does-the-coronavirus-mean-for-africa/

[10] Roxana Elliott. Mobile Phone Penetration Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. GeoPoll (In Market Research, Tech & Innovation). Posted July 8, 2019 https://www.geopoll.com/blog/mobile-phone-penetration-africa/

Policy Implications for Coronavirus

According to the World Health Organization, “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.” The current outbreak that started in Wuhan, China may have first been detected in early December 2019, hence its name COVID-19.

From the policy perspective there are several global, regional, national and local steps and policies that must be considered. At is second meeting on the novel coronavirus, the WHO Emergencies  Coronavirus Emergency  Committee on 30 January 2020 recommended and the WHO Director General declared, “We would  have seen many more  cases outside  China  by now – and probably deaths – if  it were not for the government’s efforts and the progress they have made to protect their own people  and the people  of the world…  I’m declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern over the global outbreak of novel coronavirus.”

The PHEIC was declared based on “the IHR, our main international health treaty.” This declaration and treaty enable WHO’s “leadership role for public health measures, holding  countries  to account concerning additional measures they may take regarding  travel, trade, quarantine or screening, research efforts, global coordination, anticipation of economic  impacts,  support to vulnerable  states,” which is where global and national policies and actions may come into concordance or conflict. Clearly some of the more draconian control measures by a few countries were perceived to be beyond the scope of these regulations, policies and treaty.

While as of this writing the spread of COVID-19 appears to slowed in China, it is picking up pace on other continents. The next policy question is whether to name the current outbreak a “pandemic.”

WHO says that, “A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease.” Thus there is community level spread of the disease, not just imported cases from another country. As of today, there is still no evidence of community spread in Africa and Latin America, but a suspected community acquired case has been detected in North America.

Policy and action implications for declaring a pandemic have been spelled out in the Guardian: “a pandemic would mean travel bans would no longer be useful or make sense and would alert health authorities that they need to prepare for the next phase… This includes preparing our hospitals for a large influx of patients, stockpiling any antivirals, and advising the public that when the time comes ,they will need to think about things like staying at home if ill, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings etc.” experts said. And a big challenge for governments would be “encouraging people to change their behaviours, such as forgoing or cancelling large social events if they are sick.”

It is most likely that class members in Social and Behavioral Foundations of Primary Health Care at JHSPH will address some of these policy challenges in their blogs during the coming months.