Alarm as Hepatitis B spreads in 2 counties

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos gets a Hepatitis B jab at Matira Health Centre, Kapsowar Ward on Tuesday. [Photo: Stephen Rutto]
Twenty new cases of Hepatitis B have been reported in Elgeyo Marakwet, sparking fears of an outbreak in the county.

The new cases were detected during an ongoing testing and vaccination drive spearheaded by the county government. This follows reports of 15 deaths recorded in the county and in the neighbouring West Pokot in recent months.

Health Executive Kiprono Chepkok said that eight new cases were detected during the first day of the health drive in Matira village, Kapsowar Ward.

Mr Chepkok said the county government would need Sh450 million to vaccinate a population of about 400,000 residents and called on the ministry of Health to disburse emergency funds to kick-start the initiative.

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He said the county executive had forwarded a supplementary budget to the county assembly with the intention of slashing money for projects in the wards to fund the vaccination drive.

"We are already in talks with the county assembly so that we cut costs for projects to save the lives of our people.

“The Hepatitis B spread is a serious problem. Eight residents tested positive in a population of just 600, and this tells you that the number of infected people could be very high,” Chepkok told The Standard on Tuesday.

Chepkok revealed that 13 new cases had been detected previously in the county, 10 cases were recorded in Endo ward, Emsoo and Soy South wards each recorded one case each while a student tested positive in Kamariny ward.

“So far, the Hepatitis B outbreak in Elgeyo Marakwet County has claimed more than six people, including a medical practitioner. The number could be higher because some of those who died may not have been diagnosed,” said Chepkok.

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The health boss said the worst hit areas were Kapsowar, Moiben-Kuserwo and Cherangany-Chebororwa wards.

The disease reportedly claimed the life of a health worker who died late last year in Kapyego while five people died in Tambach, Moiben, Kuserwo, Kapsowar and Cherang’any-Chebororwa Wards.

Governor Alex Tolgos, who led the vaccination drive, said his administration had lowered the cost of vaccination to Sh600 from Sh1,000 after the new cases were recorded.

"The increasing number of people testing positive is worrying. We have to make sure that our people are vaccinated. Having eight people test positive in such a healthy population is serious," said Mr Tolgos.

In West Pokot, where nine people are reported to have died in the past seven months, Serewo, Chepareria, Chepkono, Nyangaita and three other villages have been identified as high risk areas.

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Elgeyo MarakwetKiprono ChepkokWest Pokot