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Mass vaccination of food handlers may curb typhoid

Health & Science

By Ayoki Onyango

Waterborne diseases, including typhoid, are likely to rise because of the water crisis.

Nearly 16 per cent of Kenyans are infected with the disease that kills thousands every year.

Food handlers in kiosks, restaurants and hotels are among the highest risk groups. Others include slums dwellers, riparian communities, fishermen and school children. School children are at risk of getting typhoid since by virtue of their ages, they eat anything they come across.

Food handlers are exposed to contaminated products or containers.

Studies on typhoid transmission show that incidents are high in slums and along the beaches where food handlers are usually not vaccinated.

For example, a cross-sectional survey along the beaches of Lake Victoria found 50 per cent of food handlers tested positive for typhoid.

The World Health Organisation, guidelines on prevention and treatment of typhoid recommend vaccination for high-risk groups such as food handlers in all eating places and institutions.

To minimise and eliminate typhoid transmission through food, handlers must be vaccinated against the disease before they get statutory medical certificates," says Dr Charles Chunge, the chairman of Typhoid Advisory Committee in Kenya.

"Mass immunisation of food handlers and other risk groups will protect them against the disease for a period of three years but also slow its spread, says Dr Mercy Njuguna. At Sh500, the Typhim Vi vaccine is affordable and effective.

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