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CS Sicily Kariuki (centre) with Health and airport officials at JKIA yesterday. [Jeckonia Otieno, Standard]

Health & Science
Several countries have issued warnings and Russia suspended flights to China.

The government is on high alert following the outbreak of an acute viral respiratory disease in China.

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki yesterday said the country is well equipped and ready to deal with any cases of the disease commonly known as Coronavirus. 

She spoke while on a tour of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to ascertain the preparedness of Kenya’s ports of entry.  

“We have trained 60 health officials to handle any cases that might occur in the country. They have been sensitised on how to detect such cases,” Kariuki said. 

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She added that Kenya’s level of preparedness is impressive and flights arriving from China will have allocated parking at the airport for easy management of travelers from the Asian country. 

The CS, flanked by Health CAS Dr Rashid Aman and Director of Public Health Dr Kepha Ombacho said two seclusion rooms had been set aside for any eventualities. 

“Our institutions are ready, including Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH),” she added.

Dr Rudi Eggers, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative echoed the CS’s words saying the government had put appropriate measures to deal with the disease which is quickly becoming a global health crisis.

Several countries have issued warnings and Russia suspended flights to China.

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Chinese authorities have also banned Chinese Lunar Year celebrations in several towns.

Kenya and China are trade partners and the flow of human traffic between the two countries is a predisposing factor for the spread of the Chinese Coronavirus which has already killed 26 people and infected at least 830.

It is estimated that there could be up to 10,000 Chinese living in Kenya currently doing business or engaging in the several infrastructural work in different counties. There are two daily direct flights on the Nairobi-Guangzhou route, a situation that if not checked could exacerbate the problem.

Since its outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December last year, the virus has infected hundreds of people and scientists believe it started from animals and spread to humans.

Wuhan, the town in which the virus was first reported has a vibrant wild animal meat market where rats, snakes, foxes and peacocks among other bush meat is sold. Restrictions have been extended to 10 cities in Hubei Province which has close to 21 million people.

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A new theory emerged earlier in the week that the virus could have come from bats and snakes according to genetic analysis conducted so far. 

To protect their citizens, the US and UK have started screening travelers at their ports of entry to forestall any spread of the disease. A man who had returned to Washington from Wuhan on January 15 exhibited symptoms and was quarantined for four days after it was confirmed he had the virus.  

Just like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) which was first identified in 2012, coronavirus symptoms include mild to moderate symptoms like those exhibited by people infected with common cold. 

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention warns that for people with compromised immunity as well as children and elderly people, it could cause pneumonia or bronchitis. Just like flu, coronavirus spreads through contact with secretions from an infected person. 

Sicily Kariuki China JKIA Coronavirus

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