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Experience Handling Ebola Epidemic May Help Africa Dodge Coronavirus Bullet

By Lisa Schlein February 08, 2020

The World Health Organization is scaling up measures to keep Africa free of the deadly coronavirus by shoring up the continent's fragile health system and increasing preparedness efforts to tackle the potential spread of the dangerous virus to the continent.

In its latest update Saturday, China reported 811 deaths inside China out of 37,198 cases. The WHO in its Friday update reported 270 cases in 24 countries, including two deaths outside mainland China, in the Philippines and Hong Kong.

The novel coronavirus has been moving with breathtaking speed since it was first detected in China's city of Wuhan in December. While the number of cases of the pneumonia-like illness has been expanding to more countries around the world, so far it has not gained a foothold in the African region.

But that is of little comfort to Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. "We are very concerned about it as we have watched it reach other continents around the world."

We know that there is quite significant travel of people from China to Africa and back ... business people working in different African countries. And we have an intense travel of African business people, particularly going to China," she said.

Moeti told VOA her team had begun working with member states to help them "get ready for the possible onset of the coronavirus." She said the WHO was providing overall guidance to ministers of health on how to manage possible cases and prevent the further spread of the disease.

She said the experience gained in tackling the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo could be usefully applied to a possible outbreak of the coronavirus on the continent."

The World Health Organization is scaling up measures to keep Africa free of the deadly coronavirus by shoring up the continent's fragile health system and increasing preparedness efforts to tackle the potential spread of the dangerous virus to the continent.

In its latest update Saturday, China reported 811 deaths inside China out of 37,198 cases. The WHO in its Friday update reported 270 cases in 24 countries, including two deaths outside mainland China, in the Philippines and Hong Kong.

The novel coronavirus has been moving with breathtaking speed since it was first detected in China's city of Wuhan in December. While the number of cases of the pneumonia-like illness has been expanding to more countries around the world, so far it has not gained a foothold in the African region.

But that is of little comfort to Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. "We are very concerned about it as we have watched it reach other continents around the world."

We know that there is quite significant travel of people from China to Africa and back ... business people working in different African countries. And we have an intense travel of African business people, particularly going to China," she said.

Moeti told VOA her team had begun working with member states to help them "get ready for the possible onset of the coronavirus." She said the WHO was providing overall guidance to ministers of health on how to manage possible cases and prevent the further spread of the disease.

She said the experience gained in tackling the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo could be usefully applied to a possible outbreak of the coronavirus on the continent."



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