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Ministry issues cholera alert amid floods, medics' strike

As most parts of the country continue to witness floods due to the relentless downpours, the Ministry of Health has sounded the alarm over the imminent threat of a cholera outbreak, urging citizens to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions.

In a statement issued on Friday, the ministry disclosed that one case of cholera had been detected in Tana River County on April 26.

“The ongoing heavy rains and flooding have led to a confirmed case of cholera reported on April 26 in Tana River County. This single case is significant, as it amounts to an outbreak,” the statement said.

Tana River is one of the counties battling floods that have displaced thousands of residents, after River Tana burst its banks.

Beyond Tana River County, reports of suspected diarrhea cases have also emerged in Marsabit County, heightening fears of the potential spread of waterborne diseases.

Public Health PS Mary Muthoni, emphasised the severity of the situation while underscoring the preventable nature of waterborne illnesses like cholera.

“Early detection and prompt medical attention can make a significant difference, potentially saving lives,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by an intestinal infection with the cholera bacteria.

Individuals can contract the disease by ingesting food or water contaminated with these bacteria, with infections ranging from mild or asymptomatic to severe and life-threatening cases.

The Ministry has identified several risk factors contributing to the spread of this deadly disease, chief among them being the destruction of sanitation facilities during the prolonged rains, leading to the filling up, and collapse of pit latrines together with burst sewer lines, and their flooding with contaminating effects.

“These mixes water sources with fecal matter, thus underscoring the immediate and considerable risk of waterborne diseases during this time,” the Ministry stated.

Congestion in rescue camps, limited sanitation facilities, inadequate water and hygiene resources and the consumption of untreated water, further exacerbates the situation.

In response, the Ministry is collaborating with multi-agency teams in all affected areas to control the spread of cholera and other waterborne diseases.

Continuous advisories, the provision of cholera contingency supplies to assist in patient management, and the distribution of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene supplies to purify water sources are among the measures being implemented. The ministry is also pushing for treatment of  household water in high-risk areas and rescue camps

Muthoni urged Kenyans to remain vigilant and seek immediate medical assistance if they experience any symptoms associated with cholera, including profuse watery diarrhea, sometimes described as ‘rice-water stools,’ vomiting, thirst, leg cramps, and restlessness or irritability.

“If you notice any signs or symptoms of diarrhea or vomiting, please seek immediate treatment or contact the National Public Health Emergency Operation Centre at 0729 47 14 14, 0732 35 35 35, or 719,” she said.

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