The Ministry of Health has cautioned Kenyans to brace for increased upper respiratory tract infections triggered by the cold weather, amid a surge in Covid-19 infections.
The cold weather also sees people congregating in close quarters and the ministry has reinstated wearing of masks in enclosed spaces.
Already, three of eight influenza surveillance sites in Kenya – Kakuma, Kenyatta National Hospital and Nakuru – are reporting an increase in influenza cases.
In Turkana, at least 50 patients out of 100 screened last week turned positive for influenza A, with children under five being the most affected, according to Turkana West Sub-County medical officer Joel Lochor.
He said a team of surveillance officers have been dispatched to Kakuma Refugee Camp for infection control, contact tracing and isolation of patients who presented with respiratory conditions during admission.
“Mass screening is ongoing as we continue sensitising the community about influenza and Covid-19, as both diseases present with the same symptoms,” said Lochor.
Health data indicates that Kenya experiences two influenza peaks each year, with the first in March, May, June and July and the second in September and October.
In Nakuru, the influenza surveillance site is at the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital where rapid tests for Covid-19 also take place.
Medics have reported increased admission in paediatric units in the past one month.
“Cases of influenza are common in schoolchildren, who risk infecting their peers and the public,” said Nakuru County Director of Medical Services George Biketi.
Dr Biketi, also the in-charge at Elburgon Sub-county Hospital, advised the public to wear masks to help prevent exposing airwaves to the cold, avoid congregating in places without proper ventilation and seek treatment on time.
He also urged the public to adhere to Covid-19 containment measures, including handwashing with soap and water, as both diseases are transmitted and spread in the same way.
Flu cases among children have also been on the rise in Kisumu County.
Dr Josephine Ojigo, a paediatrician at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital, said an increase has been reported in the last three weeks, with children reporting with running noses, fever and difficulty in breathing, but most are in stable condition.
Dr Ojigo advised parents to maintain high standards of hygiene besides ensuring their children are fully immunised and fed on balanced diet.