Over 60 dead in Kenya cholera outbreak, state issues alert

Monday, April 14, 2008
State health officials in Kenya issued an alert Thursday after an outbreak of cholera killed over 60 people in the last five months. All health personnel have been advised to actively monitor patients with diarrhea, and the government issued a ban on preparing and eating food in public gatherings.

Nyanza Province, with 750 infections and 45 deaths, has felt the brunt of the outbreak. Over 1,200 cases have been reported in the provinces of Nyanza, Rift Valley, North Eastern and Western. According to Agence France-Presse, officials have reported 45 people dead in Nyanza Province, 12 in North Eastern Province and seven in Rift Valley Province. Health officials have stated that the actual number of deaths due to the outbreak could be higher due to under reporting.

SK Sharif, senior deputy director of health services in Nyanza, commented on contributing factors to the outbreak: "The mass movement of people during the post-election crisis may also have contributed to the outbreak of the disease as people found themselves in areas with inadequate water and sanitation facilities".

Health workers are working to contain the outbreak, and are focusing efforts on areas affected by violence related to the December elections. Suba, Migori, Homabay, Rongo, Siaya, Kisumu, Bondo, Nyando, Kisii, Wajir, Mandera, Naivasha, Nakuru and Bunyala are among the worst affected districts.

The possibility of a disease outbreak in Kenya was previously raised by health officials, specifically in camps where hundreds of thousands of displaced people reside. Revenge killings, tribal fighting and upheaval following the December elections in Kenya has displaced many in the country.

Titus Mung'ou, spokesman for Kenya Red Cross Society, told Agence France-Presse "We are trying to reduce the prevalence of the mix up that may happen by scrutinising food donations that are brought in the camps, but mostly we are ensuring that all the water is well treated".

In a news conference Thursday in Nairobi, Director of Medical Service Dr. James Nyikal said that if urgent measures were not undertaken to control the outbreak, it could become much worse. "Most deaths occurred at home or on the way to hospital," said Dr. Nyikal. Medicines worth KSh17.3 million (GBP 2.4 million) and other equipment worth KSh700,000 (GBP 5,700) has been sent to the affected areas. The Kenyan government has allocated KSh38 million (GBP 11.75 million) to contain the outbreak.

On Friday the Health Ministry requested aid from the United Nations Children's Fund, and Dr. Nyikal stated: "Health workers are a problem and we have written to Unicef, requesting assistance. Already some staff have been dispatched". Dr. Nyikal voiced concerns over high risk areas: "We are particularly concerned by risk areas such as eating premises and bus stops in major towns such as Busia, Kisumu, Kericho, Nakuru, Naivasha, Nairobi, Voi, Mtito Andei and Mombasa".

World Health Organization Country Director Dr. David Okello emphasized the importance of hygiene, stating: "We need to emphasise the importance of water safety and the public needs to adopt the measures of keeping water safe." Dr. Okello stressed that "Boiling drinking water or treating water with chlorine and practising good toilet manners are necessary to avoid contamination".

Cholera is a waterborne disease and causes serious diarrhea and vomiting. The disease can be fatal if it is not treated within 24 hours. Spread of the disease can be prevented by avoiding contaminated drinking water, and practicing proper hand washing before touching food. Southern Sudan also reported an increase in cholera cases recently.

Source: Wikinews http://en.wikinews.org