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There is no avian or swine flu outbreak, ministry says

The Ministry of Health has dispelled fears of a possible swine flu outbreak.

In a statement, the ministry said the strain of flu responsible for the death of a teenager two days ago was neither avian nor swine flu, as earlier reported.

According to the ministry, the death was due to a severe acute respiratory infection (Sari).

It had previously been claimed that the 17-year-old boy succumbed to swine flu at a hospital in Nairobi.

The teenager, as The Standard learnt, had been taken to the hospital with high fever and chest pain. His condition worsened and he was transferred to the high dependency unit on Thursday. He died on Friday.

According to the incident report, the patient died of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The report indicated that the boy had been in Watamu, Mombasa two weeks ago before he returned to Nairobi where he fell ill.

A doctor who was treating the teen is said to have been infected and hospitalised. The boy’s mother, who took him to the hospital, and his sister are also hospitalised.

His father was not affected.

The ministry said the three patients were responding well to treatment and one of them (the sister) was being treated as an outpatient because she was exhibiting mild symptoms.

The ministry noted that data from surveillance over the last 10 years showed that influenza viruses circulated throughout the year, with peaks of activity from February to April and June to November.

Flu viruses

“What we are witnessing currently is the heightened circulation of influenza flu viruses in Kenya.”

In March last year, a suspected case of avian flu was reported in Nanyuki. A five-year-old boy died.

The Sari virus is just as dangerous as the swine flu. Some of the symptoms listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are high temperatures of 38 degrees or above, a cough that lasts 10 days, and difficulty in breathing.

Both flu strains are spread through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person. People with lower immunity like children, the elderly and those naturally prone to viral infections are at high risk.

The ministry advised anyone exhibiting symptoms, including sore throat, headache and muscle aches, to seek treatment. “With common cold fever is rare, onset of symptoms quite gradual and there are rarely any aches or chills,” health officials said.

Other precautions include high standards of sanitation practices like washing hands, disinfecting objects and surfaces, and drinking plenty of fluids.

Swine flu, which originates from pigs, was declared a pandemic in 2009 by WHO after the virus ravaged Asian countries and spread to the human population.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that swine flu has infected nearly 61 million persons in the US and caused the deaths of 12,469. Globally, 575,400 people have died.

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