A survey of anti-Covid-19 antibodies in Nigeria suggests that four million people in Lagos state alone have had the virus – more than what has been officially recorded for all of Africa.
The official figure for Nigeria is 153,000 cases with 1,862 deaths.
The study was carried out on 10,000 people from four Nigerian states to estimate the extent of the coronavirus in Africa’s most populous country.
It was conducted before the start of a second wave in early December.
The results of the seroprevalence survey, conducted in September and October by the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Institute for Medical Research (IMR), are staggering, reports Mayeni Jones of Lagos of the BBC.
Infection rates were initially considered low during the first wave of the pandemic, according to our reporter.
The country recorded its highest daily infection rate in January, when it registered 1,600 new cases, suggesting that many more people were infected in the second wave.
What does the survey show?
The results revealed that one in five of those tested in Lagos, Enugu and Nasarawa states had been infected.
In the northeastern state of Gombe, the proportion was one in 10.
Infections in men were higher and people living in urban areas were particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus, according to the study.
For the head of the NCDC, this shows that a large part of Nigeria’s 186 million people are still at risk from the virus.
“Ninety to ninety percent of the population of these four states are still susceptible to the virus, which makes the vaccination efforts that we are about to start in Nigeria even more important,” said the Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of NCDC.
The country recently approved the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, but it is not known when it will receive it.
Why are statistics important?
Experts believe that having a clear picture of who dies, from what and where is crucial when it comes to allocating resources and funding.
The number of positive cases and deaths from the coronavirus in Africa could be higher than what has been reported due to poor testing and poor registration of deaths.
Nigeria is among countries on the continent that do not have a mandatory death registration system, revealed a BBC investigation.
Only Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles and Mauritius have a universal death registration system.