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KEMRI denies influenza outbreak report

Health & Science
 KEMRI stated that it has not reported any 'influenza outbreak' in the country. [iStockphoto]

The Kenya Medical and Research Institute (KEMRI) has declined reports of an influenza outbreak in the country.

This follows media reports that there is an outbreak resulting from the current surge in the number of flu cases recorded in several health facilities.

In a press statement, the research institute stated that it has not reported any ‘influenza outbreak" in the country in what it terms as media allegations based on the untruth.

"Indeed, this information attributed to our research is not only incorrect but also taken out of context and has only succeeded in causing undue panic to members of the public,'' read the statement in part.

The state corporation added, “The alleged media reports indicated that the ‘outbreak’ is based on a total of the 36 samples tested over a three-month period from September to November 2021 during our usual surveillance exercise in the country”.

Kemri's statement indicated that out of this total of 36 samples, only four (4) tested positive for flu which is an insignificant finding to warrant concerns of an influenza outbreak.

"On average, the four positive tests within a three-month period may equate to nearly one positive case per month which does not reach the threshold of an influenza outbreak". The statement read.

Past outbreaks, Kemri, said have involved a higher percentage of cases being positive. In one incident, 150 samples testing positive from a sample of 250; and in another case 14 out of 20 samples tested positive.

“We know from our long-term studies in Kenya that influenza viruses circulate all year, so you can expect a certain number of people to have the flu at any given time which is not considered an outbreak," the statement read.

It adds: Indeed, previous studies have shown that Kenya records two peaks following rainy seasons. In our opinion, the information above is not sufficient to declare this as an outbreak.

KEMRI clarified that a single case of an Ebola virus or poliovirus infection is always considered an outbreak due to the severity of these infections or the virus's eradication status. But this is not the case for influenza virus infections, especially in the tropics.

The institution’s communication officials have also urged members of the public not to panic about the reported ‘outbreak’ of influenza but should instead exercise higher standards of personal hygiene -  including hand washing, not crowding, eating healthy, and visiting their local health provider as preventive measures. 

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