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Highest death toll at 23 as 'too sick but healthy' warned

Health & Science

The number of Covid-19 deaths has shot to a new high with 23 fatalities in a day as the Ministry of Health warned patients against taking their symptoms lightly.

Among the dead is a 16-year-old, emphasising the insistence by ministry officials that the pattern of the disease seems to rope in even those perceived to be young and with good immunity.

To date, Kenya has recorded 364 deaths, which the ministry said represent a case fatality ration of 1.7 per cent with 21,363 confirmed cases after 727 more tested positive.

“These are 364 families that are at a loss, 364 Kenyans. We are increasingly seeing younger people dying. It is said when this happens. That is why we urge people not to socialise,” said Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.

Late presentation

However more disturbing, as noted by Health Director-General Dr Patrick Amoth, is the late presentation of cases to hospitals.

Amoth said while the increase in numbers means fatalities are bound to go up as well, some patients can be surviving if they had a high suspicion of the condition and present themselves in hospitals on time.

“Patients present late. Like the deaths we reported today, two of them occurred at the community level (occurred at home),” he said.

Amoth said Covid-19 has been found to induce ‘happy’ hypoxia also known as silent hypoxemia, which is a decrease in partial pressure of oxygen in the blood.

While this condition ideally means someone should have shortness of breath and probably collapse and die due to cardiac arrest, scientists are baffled by how some patients seem okay and show no signs at all. Studies have described the phenomenon as ‘confusing’ and ‘bewildering’.

Collapsing and dying

“It means you could have a serious form of Covid-19 because your lungs are not working properly but you feel otherwise well, only for you to get to the hospital normally and you are rushed to critical care,” said Amoth.

This phenomenon also could explain why some people are collapsing and dying while going about their activities unaware of their condition yet they appeared healthy.

Amoth said for every patient who goes to hospital for any other reason, clinicians have been trained to have a high suspicion index for Covid-19. This, he said, is because no matter the underlying condition that takes the patient to hospital, a Covid-19 positive test could affect their outcome.

The DG said while different countries have their own ways of documenting deaths, in Kenya as long as one has been suspected to be positive and is tested and later succumbs, notwithstanding the reason for the hospitalisation, that is considered both a Covid-19 case and a Covid-19 death as well.

“Clinicians have a way of telling this judicially. For example, if a patient with a head injury is not improving, and due to a high suspicion is tested for Covid-19. The head injury could affect the breathing and it gets worsened by Covid-19,” said Amoth.

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