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Lack of medics, kits cited for high Covid-19 deaths

Health & Science
 World Health Organization Disease Prevention and Control Officer Dr Joyce Onsongo [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

The World Health Organization has cited shortage of medical personnel and equipment as major challenges facing the continent in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.

According to the global body, despite the low figures of infection rates in Africa, case of fatality among critically ill patients admitted in Intensive Care Units was higher compared to Europe.

This comes at a time when several counties in western Kenya are grappling with lack of oxygen for patients admitted in various hospitals with Covid-19 complications.

Hospitals have been forced to procure oxygen from neighbouring counties after they were hit by the fourth wave of the Delta variant.

At the same time, the international agency and local medical experts are in the process of reviewing and updating the current Covid-19 guidelines in the wake of new evidence and variants.

According to WHO Disease Prevention and Control Officer Dr Joyce Onsongo (pictured), the capacities of many of the countries in Africa to manage Covid-19 cases had been overstretched.

She noted that the Critical Care Outcomes Study showed a case fatality rate of 48.2 per cent among critically ill Covid-19 patients admitted to ICU in the region. “This is about 11-23 excess deaths per 100 patients, when compared to the global average of about 31.5 per cent,” she said.

Onsongo called for a need to improve the access to and quality of care for Covid-19 patients in the region, particularly those with severe and critical diseases.

As per the current data, the continent has a cumulative number of over six million confirmed Covid-19 cases with over 152,000 deaths and a case fatality ratio of 2.7 per cent.

This emerged during the ongoing workshop for medical experts in Naivasha.

Onsongo noted that evidence collated from studies showed that steroids such as dexamethasone and interleukin-6 receptor blockers improved conditions of severely ill Covid-19 patients.

“However, therapies such as hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir have failed to demonstrate their value in improvement of outcomes for Covid-19 patients,” she said.

To this end, the medic said that WHO was working with clinicians and scientists to support clinical research on various potential therapies for COVID-19.

Dr Loice Ombajo, a member of the national Covid-19 task force termed the move to update the guidelines as timely in the wake of new variants.

“This virus keeps mutating and we now have a Delta variant thus we need new guidelines on stopping its spread,” she said.  

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