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Introduction: The coronavirus disease (abbreviated COVID-19) pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has devastated the world in the space of just a few months. Since it was first reported in December 31, 2019 in the Hubei province of China, at the time of writing, over 2 million people have been infected, with over 127,598 deaths in 202 countries and territories. Records of global distribution show a steady increase, although the USA is leading in its distribution, with Italy reporting close to 20,000 deaths. The purpose of this rapid review is to synthesize available evidence on the epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis and public health control measures to inform policy, programs and research on COVID-19.
Methods: A rapid review method was employed using PubMed and Google Scholar search engines. Journal articles, reports and government documents were included in our search, which is focused on the disease epidemiology, advancements in diagnostics, treatment and vaccines, public health control measures, and psychosocial interventions for health care providers. The contents of the identified articles were examined and abstracted by a team of investigators. The concepts represented by the individual reviews were collated to give a complete picture of COVID-19 based on the evidence we have so far. The search period spanned December 30, 2019 to April 15, 2020.
Findings: The severity of the disease and its fast spread, three times faster than the flu, has challenged the health systems of almost every country in the world. Although, for now, the case burden remains low in Africa, the impact of COVID-19 is anticipated to be severe if it becomes widespread. Efforts to curb the pandemic, involving prevention, disease surveillance, contact tracing, clinical management and the development of new treatments and diagnostics, is ongoing across the globe. While writing this review, more than 73 vaccines are at the exploratory or preclinical stage, while two are in phase I clinical trialsYet, non-pharmaceutical interventions are critical to stopping the spread of the virus. Africa, in particular, should put extra effort into making preventive public health measures work, because health systems in the continent are too weak to withstand the effect of the pandemic should it hit hard, and the economic implications of extreme control measures following a delayed response would be severe. On the bright side, the lessons drawn from this pandemic are likely to improve the preparedness and response to similar future outbreaks and pandemics. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2020; 34(2):129-140]
Key words: Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, SARS-CoV-2