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Why your child is down with flu

 Pupils have been coughing and complaining about body aches (Image: Shutterstock)

The cold and chilly weather conditions have triggered upper respiratory tract infections in children countrywide in the past month, leading to schools absenteeism.

Healthcare facilities are overwhelmed, with the rising cases of children exhibiting fever, cough, running nose and body ache, according to health officials who have ruled out Covid-19 after tests.

Western Kenya is the most affected. According to Kakamega County public health officer Beatrice Magokha, Influenza B has been detected in three schools in Mumias East, from samples collected from Lusheya Hospital, where children from the bulk of outpatients.

“There is high absenteeism among pupils, who are coughing and complaining of body ache,” said Dr Magokha, adding that even adults are ailing, though with mild symptoms.

Though Covid tests turned out negative, a team of surveillance officers are conducting line listing of affected children for diagnosis.

In Vihiga, more than 200 cases have been documented across all the sub-counties, with pupils having fever, cough, running nose and body ache being asked to stay at home and seek medical attention, according to county disease surveillance officer Bernard Makatiani.

“Though the situation is being managed, we are worried about reinfections of flu,” said Makatiani, who singled out congestion and inability of pupils to wear face masks among challenges of battling the outbreak.

Influenza A and Influenza B have also been confirmed in Nakuru West, according to county chief of public health Daniel Wainaina, who adds that cases have doubled in Kuresoi North, Molo, Kamara and Total in the past two weeks, and that “data from flu surveillance site indicates an upsurge,” but influenza surveillance will be employed as part of mitigation measures.

The Kenya Meteorological Department’s report of June 22, 2021 noted increased cases of respiratory diseases, attributed to cold weather, with Nairobi and several parts of the Rift Valley carrying some burden of infections. Asthma, pneumonia, flu and common cold are among expected respiratory diseases.

Nyandarua Chief Officer of Health Joram Muraya says other conditions are airway obstruction and rheumatoid arthritis, but “cases of upper respiratory track infections are high during cold weather because people tend to congregate in poorly ventilated areas.”

Mitigation measures suggested include educating the public on standards of housing, clothing and hospital visitation.

Josephine Ojigo, a paediatrician at the Jaramogi Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu, says the cold weather also worsens asthma in children and breathing difficulties.

She notes that people close their rooms allowing the circulation of viral infections which contributes to rising cases of Covid-19 infections. Most families also use charcoal jikos to heat their houses thus exposing children to carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Parents should observe disease prevention protocol like basic hygiene, avoid overcrowding, and observe ventilation,” said Dr Ojigo adding that most childhood diseases are prevented by vaccination which builds up immunity.

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