Why Coronavirus is still deadlier in Kenya
The death toll from Covid-19 could be worse in Kenya and across Africa than in other parts of the world, if the virus begins to spread more rapidly, a new study suggests.
The study – partly conducted in Kenya – shows that Covid-19 patients in Africa who become critically ill are more likely to die than those in other regions of the world.
It says 11 to 23 in every 100 patients admitted with severe Covid-19 died, compared with the global average.
“There are several possible reasons to explain this finding. First, the scarcity of critical care resources in African countries might contribute to the high critical care mortality,” says the study published in the Lancet on May 22.
“Second, there are inadequate critical care beds, with only one in two patients referred to critical care being admitted.”
In Kenya, the study was conducted at the Kenyatta National Teaching and Referral Hospital, Mater Misericordiae Hospital and the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital.
“The study brings out what is well known already that our capacity and resources to cater for critically ill patients in Kenya are very wanting. It further brings out the fact that a lot of our critically ill patients have huge co-morbidities,” says pathologist Dr Ahmed Kalebi, the immediate former head of Lancet Laboratories.
The findings were based on data from 64 hospitals across Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria and South Africa between May and December 2020.
This was before the emergence of more lethal variants from South Africa and India.
“All in all, it means if you fall critically ill from Covid-19 in Kenya you are more likely to die for want of adequate care than of you had the same critical illness but was in Europe, America or parts of Asia,” Dr Kalebi said. He was not involved in the study.
The authors mention that mortality was strongly associated with organ dysfunction and level of organ support needed at critical admission, advising that outcomes will continue to be severely compromised until problems surrounding critical care resource scarcity are addressed.
A commentary accompanying the study, written by specialists who were not involved, said the study has several strengths, including a large sample size, robust analyses, as well as having a multisite and prospective design.
However, they noted some limitations, including that the study was done in tertiary hospitals.
“More than a third of the hospitals that participated in the study were in Egypt and South Africa, which generally have better resources than many other African nations, indicating Covid-19 death rates outside the cohort study could be even higher,” the commentary authors said.
According to the Ministry of Health, Covid-19 deaths on Thursday reached 3,108 while total infections were 169,697.
This pushed the country’s positivity rate to 9.4 percent.