KENYA: Cholera kills 40 in western region

Friday, April 4, 2008

At least 42 people have died in western Kenya following an outbreak of Cholera, health officials said.

"At least 701 cases of the disease have been reported in the western province of Nyanza," SK Sharif, the senior deputy director of the area’s medical services, said on 2 April.

The disease, which was initially reported in the districts of Rongo, Siaya and Suba in January, had spread to other districts in the region despite control measures.

The most affected areas included the districts of Bondo, Homa Bay, Kisumu, Migori and Nyando. Cases had also been reported in Kisii and in the Bunyala area of Busia.

“There has been an on and off recurrence of the disease," Sharif said.

He said the outbreak had been caused by gaps in water and sanitation hygiene in the region and frequent outbreaks of the disease in neighbouring Uganda. Other risk factors included the use of untreated water and contaminated food.

“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,” he said.

Outbreak control measures, including targeted public health education campaigns and the strengthening of water treatment through chlorination, were put in place in the affected areas.

“We are also encouraging awareness on personal hygiene, the safe disposal of human waste and on how to minimise family contact with affected members,” Sharif said.

Measures to strengthen disease surveillance and the updating of health workers on detection and case management are ongoing. "We are trying to contain the disease where it is," he added.

Intervention efforts appeared to be succeeding, with the number of cases being reported reducing compared to mid-February when there had been a rapid spread of the disease.

“We are also partnering with other organisations to control the spread of the disease,” Sharif said, adding that there was a need to address the issue of water provision to reduce gaps in water sanitation hygiene through increased coordination with relevant ministries.

“We also need to increase advocacy on public health awareness, water safety promotion and strengthen case management and disease control,” he said.

Cholera, which is caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacteria, is characterised by profuse watery diarrhoea, vomiting, muscle cramps and severe dehydration.

Cholera cases were also reported in Northeastern Province in January and February in the districts of Mandera Central, Mandera East and Wajir, where there were at least 12 deaths and 448 cases. The outbreak followed similar outbreaks in Ethiopia and Somalia and was exacerbated by inadequate water and sanitation hygiene.

Source: IRIN