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Cases of cholera, diarrhoea surge due to hygiene risk posed by El Nino

 Kenya Red Cross personnel assist a family affected by floods in Eldas Sub-county, Wajir County. [Victor Ogalle, Standard]

An outbreak of cholera has been reported in Lamu County, with a surge in diarrhoea disease attributed to a downpour reported in the country.

At least eight cholera patients have been admitted at Lamu Central Sub-County Hospital for treatment.

Caleb Chemirmir, a public health official at Kenya Red Cross, confirmed the cases.

In an interview with The Standard, Mr Chemirmir said more cases of diarrhoea have been reported in Tana River, Garissa and Mandera counties.

More worrying

“We have confirmed cholera in Lamu, but more worrying is the fear of increased cases of diarrhoea,” said Chemirmir.

He pleaded with those in flood-affected area and displacement camps to dispose of human waste properly to curb cases of diarrhoea.

Chemirmir said the Kenya Red Cross Society has deployed a team of health providers to provide hygiene and sanitation promotion among displaced populations.

A surge of malaria cases has also been confirmed in Leisamis, Mandera county.

Kenya Red Cross Society in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other partners have distributed mosquito nets.

Chemirmir said the distribution of mosquito nets is also ongoing in flood-affected counties.

“Kenya Red Cross Society distributed 8,000 mosquito nets in Wajir County, and in all places where displacements have been done.

At least two mosquito nets are distributed to each displaced family,” said the official.

Issued alert

Outbreaks of cholera and diarrhoea have been reported at a time the Ministry of Health has issued an alert on anticipated outbreaks of water-borne diseases.

“The current situation presents potential health hazards including an increase in waterborne diseases and vector-borne illnesses like malaria,” reads a section of advisory issued by Public Health PS Mary Muthoni, dated November 22, 2023.

Overcrowding of individuals who have moved to displacement camps is also likely to trigger respiratory tract infections.

Muthoni added that outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles are likely to be reported.

The advisory was issued at a time the country is yet to contain a cholera outbreak reported in October.

Tens of people have been killed by the disease, which experts say may increase with the rains, due to contamination of water bodies and poor sanitation.

Apart from outbreak of diseases, cases of malnutrition are expected to rise, as a result of food insecurity.

On Friday, Health PS Muthoni flagged off nutritional supplements valued at Sh28 million to Turkana County.

The consignment was procured by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF to treat at least 3,500 children faced with acute malnutrition.

The supplies will be distributed to 177 health facilities across the country.

As a mitigation to outbreak of diseases, PS Muthoni said the ministry, in collaboration with county governments and partners, will implement a comprehensive response plan focusing on vulnerable areas within the health system. The focus will be activation of national public health emergency operations centres and prompt activation of county emergency operation centres.

Additionally, distribution of insecticide-treated nets is ongoing to mitigate vector-borne diseases namely Rift Valley haemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, chikungunya and malaria. 

Distribution of Long Lasting Insecticidal Treated Nets (LLITNs) is ongoing in counties that include Kisumu, Siaya, Busia, Migori, Kisii, Nyamira, Lamu, Kilifi, Tana River, Kwale, Mombasa, Taita-Taveta Vihiga, Homa Bay and Bungoma.

Other counties are Kakamega, West Pokot, Turkana, Trans Nzoia, Narok, Baringo, Kirinyaga.

According to the Centres for Disease Control, malaria affects about 4 million Kenyans and results in 10,700 deaths every year, majority of which are those living in lake region.

According to Kenya Malaria indicator survey of 2020, Kenya’s national malaria prevalence stands at 5.8 percent.

Children under the age of five and pregnant women are the most prone to malaria cases and deaths.

Donald Apat, a malaria public health specialist, emphasised on the importance of adhering to malaria preventive measures.

According to Apat, the country is likely to experience a rise in malaria cases because the weather has made it favourable for mosquitoes to thrive.

Endemic zones

“People in endemic zones should sleep under insecticide-treated mosquito nets, which should be used with or without rains,” said Apat.

The expert added that anyone who presents with malaria-related symptoms should be tested.

Dr Josephine Ojigo, a paedetrician at the Jaramogi Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital, said during cold weather, children tend to contract common colds, influenza, flu, and those who are asthmatic tend to have their symptoms worsen.

The expert added that children are also exposed to poisoning, majorly carbon monoxide, as a number of families use jiko as a source of fuel.

She said most childhood diseases are prevented by vaccination.

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