Animal-borne epidemics have increased by more than 60% in Africa over the past decade, according to WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa warns of increasing zoonotic epidemics on the African continent. Diseases transmitted from animals to humans continue to increase and spread. In particular, population growth and urbanization.

Dengue, Ebola or monkey pox. According to the WHO, the number of cases of these diseases transmitted from animals to humans has recently increased in Africa: 63% more in the last ten years. The increase was observed from the early 2000s with “a certain high point” registered in 2019 and 2020. Most of the epidemics that broke out in Africa were caused by pathogens – viruses, bacteria and fungi – that were transmitted by animals.

We must act now to stop zoonoses before they can cause widespread infections, and prevent Africa from becoming the epicenter of emerging infectious diseases

dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa Regional Director

For example, the WHO analysis points to an increase “meaningful” cases of monkey pox since April 2022, compared to the same period in 2021. This increase is mainly observed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.

It could be partly attributed to the strengthening of virus surveillance and laboratory analysis capacities in these countries, according to the UN agency. In addition to the increase in the number of cases, it is the spread of the virus that worries the WHO. It is no longer limited to certain African countries but now affects several countries in the world. To date, there have been more than 10,000 cases in about 60 countries.

Several reasons, the WHO explains, are at the root of the increase in epidemics of zoonoses – infectious diseases that pass from animals to humans – in Africa. This region of the world has the fastest population growth. As a result, urbanization is increasing and wildlife habitats are being affected. The development of infrastructure and means of transport is also an important factor in the circulation of viruses that move from rural or sparsely populated areas to large urban centers.

“Animal-borne infections transmitted to humans have been around for centuries, but the risk of mass infections and deaths was relatively limited in Africa. Poor transport infrastructure was a natural barrier”

dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa Regional Director

To address the rise of zoonotic diseases in Africa, the WHO recommends a one-size-fits-all health approach. In other words, collaboration between scientists and experts from all sectors – especially environment, food and agriculture to “preventing and controlling diseases such as Ebola, monkeypox and other coronaviruses”.

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