Africa under immense threat of zoonotic diseases- WHO

Africa under immense threat of zoonotic diseases- WHO

Africa’s exposure to contagious zoonotic diseases has grown by 63 per cent in the past decade.

A detailed analysis by World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that the continent had a prevalence of diseases transmitted from animals in the 2001-2011 period but the cases even surged higher in the next decade from 2012 to 2022.

According to WHO, over the last 10 years, African countries posted 1843 cases where 30 per cent of such cases were from zoonotic diseases.

‘‘While these numbers have increased over the past two decades, there was a particular spike in 2019 and 2020 when zoonotic pathogens represented around 50 per cent of public health events.

‘‘Ebola Virus Disease and other viral hemorrhagic fevers constitute nearly 70 per cent of these outbreaks; with dengue fever, anthrax, plague, monkeypox and a range of other diseases making up the remaining 30 per cent,’’ it noted in a press statement.

WHO argued that Africa’s population growth has inspired other factors such as the increasing need for food which makes the population predisposed to dangers.

WHO stated: ‘‘Africa has the world’s fastest-growing population and there is a growing demand for food derived from animals including meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. The population growth is also leading to rising urbanization and encroachment on the habitats of wildlife.

 ‘‘Road, rail, boat and air links are also improving across Africa increasing the risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks spreading from remote areas where there are few inhabitants to large urban areas.’’

Citing the deadly Ebola outbreaks in the previous years, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said such cases were worrying although the mortality rates have been lower.

Dr Moeti said the movement of people was contributing to the transmission of dangerous diseases. For instance, in the data, WHO detailed an increase in cases of monkeypox in 2022 more than they were in 2021. Nigeria and DR Congo are the most affected countries.

“Infections originating in animals and then jumping to humans have been happening for centuries, but the risk of mass infections and deaths had been relatively limited in Africa. Poor transport infrastructure acted as a natural barrier,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“However, with improved transportation in Africa, there is an increased threat of zoonotic pathogens travelling to large urban centres. We must act now to contain zoonotic diseases before they can cause widespread infections and stop Africa from becoming a hotspot for emerging infectious diseases,” Moeti added.