On January 2, John Imunya, 57, woke up in an upbeat mood at his home in Athwana village, Tigania West, Meru County. However, he got an unexplained stomachache later in the day.
As the day progressed, the stomachache worsened and he requested for some water. He started vomiting uncontrollably.
Fransisca Makena, his daughter, says his condition worsened fast and they called a boda boda to ferry him to hospital.
“But when they arrived, father was not able to support himself on it; we had to look for a taxi from Kitheo,” a tearful Makena recalls sitting beside her mother near their father’s grave.
“He was rushed to Isiolo Hospital but died later in the evening,” Makena recalls.
Not far away, another family is thanking their God.
We find Joy Kaari and her elderly mother Nakai Maranya resting on the grass in their compound, looking weak, but happy to be alive.
Maranya who is more than 70 years old fell ill on January 2 at her home in Akithi ward.
Kaari, 39, says when her mother experienced a running stomach she was rushed to Mweronkaga where she was admitted for four days.
“I went to stay with her one evening and the next morning I also got sick. I was vomiting with a running stomach. I was also admitted and discharged after three days. I am feeling better, though I feel weak,” said Kaari.
But what could be ailing these residents?
County Health Executive Eunice Kobia says an outbreak of diarrhoea started immediately after Christmas.
So far, there are conflicting reports on the exact number of casualties but Ms Kobia says only four have succumbed. Health experts are still trying to establish whether it is cholera, amebiotic diarrhoea or dysentery.
“It is diarrhoea. We have received sample results from the national laboratory. They are negative for typhoid and cholera,” said Kobia.
Red Cross regional coordinator Gitonga Mugambi, when asked what disease it could be said: “Diarrhoea. Dysentery as far as I’m aware”.
But in the meantime locals are suffering and want answers.
“We don’t care what disease it is, what we want is for it to be treated as many have been infected,” says Janerose Kendi, a local.
Affected areas face acute shortage of the commodity and residents have to rely on the few bore holes constructed by the Red Cross Society, Catholic Diocese and the national and county Government. Red Cross recently donated diarrhoea medicines to affected persons, to minimise deaths from dehydration.
Kobia and Dr Kanana Kimunyi, the Chief Officer, say contrary to reports, 182 cases had been reported, and four deaths.
“Everything is under control so there is no need for panic. Unfortunately there is shortage of water in that area but we are stressing the importance of drinking boiled water and maintaining high hygiene standards,” says Kobia.