By Standard Team
Swine flu was reported in nine more schools as the Government warned that thousands of Kenyans could have contracted the H1N1 virus (swine flu) without knowing they have it.
The shock revelations come after health officials have been put on high alert in Rift Valley, Nairobi and Central provinces where swine flu has been detected in different schools.
In Central Province, 10 students from Naromoru Girls School in Nyeri have tested positive for swine flu while pupils in two other primary schools in Njabini area of Nyandarua District have had body fluid samples taken on suspicion they have contracted the disease.
In the Rift Valley, 11 students from Sacred Heart Boys High School and 20 others from Kirobon High School have been in quarantine since Friday after testing positive for the flu.
Yesterday Public Health Director Shahnaaz Shariff told The Standard that the spread "is normal" and that the Health Ministry had anticipated it.
The good news is that the strain going round in Kenya is extremely mild and not fatal as the one that had caused 2,837 deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation records.
"What we have is mild. There are cases which are not symptomatic, but we only came to know about them through tests," Dr Shariff said.
He said the ministry would not close down the schools but quarantine them as the students receive medication.
"We have enough Tami flu drugs that have been so far effective in fighting this virus. In Kenya we have been lucky as no case of death has been reported," the Public Health director said.
Yesterday, a school was quarantined after 68 students were taken ill with symptoms similar to those of swine flu.
Koibatek District Education Officer Andrew Mibei said some students at Eldama Ravine Girls Secondary School had been isolated in one dormitory.
In Molo, nine students from St Joseph’s Seminary were quarantined at Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital over fears they could be infected with swine flu.
The principal, Father Peter Mwangi, told journalists several students had developed headaches, coughs and fever, symptoms associated with swine flu.
At the same time, the administrator of Sacred Heart Boys in Rongai, Father Johannes Haga last week confirmed that 30 students had shown symptoms of the flu.
Shariff said the students must have contracted the virus during their holiday break then took it back to their schools.
"These cases show that the disease is has been spreading steadily in the country. As a ministry we will do our part to control further spread. But the public should also take precautionary measures," Shariff said.
He asked the public to observe high hygienic standards by covering their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing, avoid spitting about and washing hands with soap regularly.
Ministry of Health officials in Nakuru, Kericho and Bomet remained on high alert after students in secondary schools in the areas showed symptoms of the disease.
Yesterday, medical officers were at Ndaraweta Girls Secondary School in Bomet after 90 students showed symptoms of the H1N1 virus
According to District Medical Officer Kariuki Gichuki, medical officers had been dispatched to the affected schools to monitor the sick students.
"The sick students have been quarantined and are being treated in their dormitories to avoid spread of the virus," he said.
Gichuki said results of 20 students from Kirobon High School were expected by today and the students will be treated accordingly.
"There is no cause for alarm we are well prepared and the students will receive the appropriate treatment," he said.
The headmistress Jane Mwangi said students had been isolated from the rest due to symptoms similar to those of swine flu.
"We have not received the test results yet but we are attending to them here in the school," Ms Mwangi said.
Kericho Medical Officer of Health Dr Ambrose Rotich called on members of public to seek treatment immediately they displayed symptoms associated with the flu.
He said 40 students of Kericho Tea Secondary School suspected to have contracted the swine flu have been put under isolation at the school.
"We have already administered treatment to the students who have shown symptoms of the flu," he added.
In Bomet, District Medical Officer of Health Phillip Ngere was at Ndaraweta Girls Secondary School taking samples from students before isolating them.
Last week the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan warned that the small subset of patients who developed serious illness from the disease needed strict treatment and monitoring to survive the infection.
"The pandemic H1N1 flu virus continues to cause widespread infection in many parts of the world but is not becoming more serious, Clinically, this is a virus of extremes. It does not seem to have a middle ground," she told a WHO regional meeting in Copenhagen, according to the text of her remarks.
Pregnant women, diabetics and those with stressed immune systems, she said have been most vulnerable to severe infection from H1N1.
The WHO has estimated that two billion people in the world could eventually catch the virus and governments worldwide are scrambling to secure access to vaccines under development by pharmaceutical companies.
— Reports by Peter Orengo, Peter Mutai, Stella Mwangi and Vitalis Kimutai