Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases have posed serious threat to Africa as existing antibiotics have become less effective against bacteria, the Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control (ACDC) has said.
“We have been challenged every day by resistance to antibiotics for the last 20 years so something should be done urgently otherwise we will be run out of options,” said Director of Africa CDC Dr John Nkengasong on the sidelines of an international conference on emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases in Africa, which is underway in the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.
The conference highlighted that there is inadequate information on anti-microbial prescription practices in many sub-Saharan countries, whose urban centres have been a breeding heaven for bacteria.
Though African Heads of State and Government issued a Declaration on July 3rd, 2017, to combat infectious diseases and commit to the implementation of International Health Regulations (IHR), disease threats are still being driven by many factors, he added.
Weak health systems, huge population growth – expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050 – rapid urbanization, expansive mobility of people across and beyond the continent, terrorism, wars and climate change fuelled by global warming are among the factors that have been contributing to the emergence of infectious diseases in the continent.
Over the past 20 years, the number of annual African outbreaks has nearly tripled. ebola, zika, cholera, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and various strains of the influenza virus have affected tens of millions of people, Nkengasong underscored.
The conference highlighted protracted cholera, ebola and monkey pox outbreaks with increased magnitude and strength. Tuberculosis and drug-resistant HIV have also posed serious health problems across the continent.
“We may run out of options to the extent that simple surgeries may become impossible because we don’t have antibiotics due to resistance,” Nkengasong warned.
The director stated that ACDC is taking measures to tackle infectious diseases by helping each member state set up their own national public health institutes, putting in place early warning systems, encouraging domestic investment in health sectors and mobilizing resources collectively.
The Dean of Public Health School at Harvard, Michelle A Williams, said infections like gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and food-borne diseases are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective against the bacteria.
Acknowledging the essential need for a multilateral and multi-sectoral approach to strengthen both the global and national capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, she urged governments in Africa and around the world to demonstrate willingness to mitigate the devastating effects of ebola and other highly infectious diseases.
Public health experts from a wide variety of countries are attending the three-day conference, discussing the increased threats posed by emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases in Africa.