Over two-thirds of Africans exposed to virus which causes COVID-19: WHO study

Over two-thirds of Africans exposed to virus which causes COVID-19: WHO study
07 April 2022
Brazzaville – Up to 65% of Africans have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, a World Health Organization (WHO) analysis finds. The study finds that true infections on the continent were 97 times larger than reported confirmed cases.

The analysis, which is available as a pre-print under peer review, synthesized 151 studies published on seroprevalence in Africa between January 2020 and December 2021. It found that exposure to SARS-CoV-2 skyrocketed from 3% (1.0-9.2% range) in June of 2020 to 65% (56.3-73% range) by September of 2021, or 800 million infections compared with 8.2 million cases reported at that time. The study showed that exposure to the virus rose sharply following the emergence of the Beta and the Delta variants.

The analysis revealed that the true number of infections could be as much as 97 times higher than the number of confirmed reported cases. This compares to the global average where true number of infections is 16 times higher than the number of confirmed reported cases.

However, seroprevalence varied widely within and across countries in Africa – higher in more dense urban areas than in less populated rural areas – and between age groups, with children aged 0-9 years having fewer infections compared with adults. Exposure to the virus also varied between countries and Africa’s sub-regions: seroprevalence appears to be highest in Eastern, Western and Central African regions.

The new analysis suggests that more than two-thirds of all Africans have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. Globally seroprevalence studies have found a significant under-counting of cases occurring across the globe with 45.2% of the world’s population estimated to have been infected with the virus by September 2021. It is, however, difficult to compare figures for Africa with those of other regions, as many of the studies conducted cover different time periods.

The continent differentiates itself from other regions by its high number of asymptomatic cases, with 67% of cases having no symptoms.

“This analysis shows that current reported COVID-19 confirmed cases are only a fraction of the actual number of infections on the continent,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “This under-counting is occurring world-wide and it’s no surprise that the numbers are particularly large in Africa where there are so many cases with no symptoms.”…