Myth: African genes protect against COVID-19

You might have heard that African genes protect you from COVID-19 infection. This is not true. You may have been told that Cameroonian Kem Senou Pavel Daryl living in Wuhan became ill with, and then recovered from, the coronavirus. Whilst this is true, this is not because he was of African origin, but because he was a 21-year-old student with no underlying health conditions. Most young, healthy people would be expected to recover, and the recovery of Daryl was in line with this. Individuals of African origin do not have stronger antibodies than other people, and they do not have genes which make them resistant to the virus. 

In fact, in the United States, African-Americans are being hospitalised and dying at higher rates than you would expect based on how many African-Americans there are in the population. This is probably mostly due to economic inequality – African Americans are less likely to have health insurance and more likely to have medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease that increase the risk from coronavirus. However, it shows that individuals of African origin are not protected from the coronavirus. 

It is important for all people, no matter their origin, to follow guidelines such as physical distancing, in order to avoid getting the virus. Anyone showing symptoms of the virus should self-isolate for at least 7 days, to avoid passing the virus on to other people. It is dangerous to assume that you might be resistant to the virus, since you may be vulnerable to serious complications, or may pass it on to someone else who is.



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