KENYA: Cholera confirmed in western region

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
An outbreak of cholera has been confirmed in the Kisumu municipality in the western region, a senior health official has said.

"At least 13 out of 38 cases sampled for cholera have tested positive," Shahnaaz Sharif, the senior deputy director of medical services in Kenya's health ministry, said.

Sharif said 34 people had also been admitted to the Kisumu district hospital, with a total of 134 cases reported since the outbreak began on 6 June.

So far, he said, no deaths had been registered.

The most affected areas included the slums of Manyatta, Nyalenda and Obunga in the municipality, which lies in the district of Kisumu East.

"The new outbreak is attributable to the onset of recent rains in the region that have resulted in the contamination of water wells - the main sources of water for the residents," he said.

This, he said, may have aggravated the already poor sanitation in the slum areas.

Medical supplies have been sent to the affected regions and cholera treatment centres established in the localities of Migosi, Simba Upepo and near the airport dispensary.

Contaminated wells located in close proximity to latrines have been fenced off and the remaining functional wells chlorinated. Other measures included banning the hawking of food in the area and the inspection of food handlers.

Sharif said it was difficult to create public awareness of better hygiene and sanitation practices against a backdrop of low latrine coverage.

The lack of sufficient safe and clean water for domestic consumption within the municipality was also a challenge, he said.

At least 376 cases and 12 deaths have been reported in the Kisumu East district since January when an outbreak of the disease was reported in the rural areas.

The outbreak, which also affected the districts of Bondo, Homa Bay, Kisii South, Kisumu West, Migori, Nyando, Rongo, Siayathe and Suba in the western region, led to the deaths of 46 people with 832 cases being reported, according to a UN World Health Organization (WHO) report on 19 April.

An initial rapid assessment and outbreak investigation in response to the outbreak in April identified poor personal and food hygiene as one of the risk factors contributing to the transmission. The assessment was carried out by a team from the ministry and the WHO.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.