Kisumu hospitals grapple with surging co-infection of malaria, Covid

Covid-19 isolation center at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu (Collins Oduor, Standard)

Kisumu County has recorded a surge in malaria cases with most patients also testing positive for Covid-19.

Areas with the highest malaria burden include Nyando, Nyakach and Seme and Kisumu East sub-counties. Children are the worst hit as their admissions have surged three times in the last two months, according to records at the Kisumu County Hospital.

From 19 per cent, children admitted with malaria has now hit 60 per cent while adult numbers doubled from 25 to 50 per cent. Kisumu County Director for Health Fredrick Oluoch now fears there could be stockouts considering “we have antimalarial to treat the disease but if we don’t receive another consignment we might run out of supply”.

Those diagnosed with both malaria and Covid-19 are adults since the “double mutant” Indian variant was reported there a couple of months ago. The rising number of malaria cases have coincided with the recent heavy rains and the rising water levels in Lake Victoria.

At the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH), between 50 and 60 out of every 150 patients seeking treatment daily are diagnosed with malaria, which translates to 70 per cent.

David Okeyo, the Medical Superintendent at Kombewa Hospital, said the facility attends to between 20 and 50 children with malaria every day and at least 10 suffer from severe cases. “We have a few drugs in stock for children but they will not last for long. The stocks will run out soon,” said Okeyo, attributing rising malaria cases to the heavy rains.

The situation is the same at the Ahero County Hospital where 412 malaria cases were reported last month from 247 in April, with 23 patients admitted with severe malaria from 16 in April. And at Lumumba hospital, an average of 40 malaria cases are reported daily, majority of them children under 10 years.

“We have not recorded mortalities as a result of severe malaria. Unfortunately, some patients visit hospitals when the disease is at an advanced stage,” noted Oluoch, adding that the county has embarked on malaria surveillance on a weekly basis through community health workers.

Last month health officials distributed 930,000 mosquito nets in high-risk areas across the county to help manage the disease alongside vaccinating children.

The current situation has stretched health facilities in the region with JOOTRH Chief Executive Officer George Rae confirming that the facility was full to capacity and “increased cases of malaria and double number of Covid-19 patients is worrying.” 

Meanwhile, Kemri scientists are carrying out clinical trial testing for Coartem and Paramax drug (standard care for malaria) to observe how they perform in patients with Covid-19. The 12-month study titled MalCov targets 354 patients with at least 71 having co-infection of both malaria and Covid-19.

The scientists seek to establish if malaria is a risk factor for Covid-19 and whether patients diagnosed with both diseases develop severe symptoms compared to those with Covid-19 alone, according to principal investigation lead Dr Helen Barsosio.

The study, which target those aged six and above, kicked off in January in the malaria-endemic counties of Kisumu, Siaya and Busia.

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