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Uganda’s coronavirus cases are low risk – Epidemiologists

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Majority of Uganda’s COVID-19 confirmed cases belong to the lower risk age groups, this is according to researchers.

According to health officials, the infection trends as of now means Uganda might not record any deaths associated with the disease. This they say is a good thing because the country can treat and handle the disease.

Uganda has so far confirmed 33 cases of COVID-19. Data released of 23 cases by the health ministry shows that 9 percent are ages 0-19 years, 33 percent belong to ages 20-40 and 24 percent are aged 41-60. Six percent are aged 61 and above.

In developed countries, persons above the 65 year age mark once confirmed with the disease have higher chances of succumbing to the disease. Data from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that between February and March 2020, persons aged 65 and above represented 31 percent of all the confirmed cases.

45 percent of the confirmed cases in this age group developed severe forms of the disease and needed to be hospitalized. 53 percent of those that were hospitalized were admitted to Intensive Care Units. 80 percent of the deaths that have been registered were among this age group.

Dr Monica Musenero, a consultant epidemiologist and adviser to President Yoweri Museveni says that the demographic figures for all the confirmed figures are not representative of what age groups are at risk in Uganda yet. She says Uganda has fewer numbers in the high-risk age groups because few of them travel.

Similarly, Dr Misaki Wayengera, a virologist says that the low numbers of older persons being affected may be due to the low number of elder persons who travel.

“People above 65 are most perceptible to getting infected but look at the number of Ugandans within that age group that travel, they are very few. Just like Africans are the least hit by the disease, I believe so will be people of that age. We are a young county and few of them can be found in places where they will likely get infected,” Dr Wayengera said.

There has been worry about whether Uganda can handle the disease. According to the ministry of health, the country is ready with testing equipment that can run 75 tests an hour, over 74 respirators for and over 200 dialysis beds for people who develop organ failure and 55 Intensive Care Unit-ICU beds in the country.

However, with only six percent of the confirmed cases falling into the high-risk groups, Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director-general of health services at the ministry of health says there have not been unforeseen difficulties in treating all the confirmed case.

“So far, we do not have any critical patients. They are responding well to treatments and even eating. They are all  well and none of them has passed away as social media sites have been claiming,” Dr Mwebesa said.

Despite research showing that older persons are more at risk of falling sick, the World Health Organisation says anyone can be susceptible to the disease. Dr Maria Kerkhove, the COVID-19 WHO technical lead says that even young people can die and it is important for everyone to take precautions and avoid the spread of the disease.

“It is important for everyone to practice personal distancing because studies are showing that even young people can fall sick but they can also spread the disease to the older ones. So as of now, it’s important for everyone to take precautions to keep safe,” Dr Kerkhove said.

While Uganda is now able to handle the cases and few persons over the age of 65 have been confirmed, Dr Musenero says that all this can change once community transmission starts taking place.

“Right now, most of the cases that we have were imported. They have not been transmitted locally. So, our trends of infection can change the moment cases start showing up in communities. What we need to do now to stop that from happening is remaining in our homes and observing all the president’s directives,” Dr Musenero said.

The numbers of infected cases of COVID-19 are increasing globally and scientists expect the number to double in the next one month.

Currently, over 800,000 people globally are infected.  In Africa, the number of confirmed infections stands at over 2,000.

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