When will Kenyans ever learn?

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JUDIE KABERIA

Even after confirmation of the first case of the H1N1 virus in Kenya, the reality of Swine Flu still sounds far-fetched to many Kenyans.

But I really can’t blame anyone. Well, not after the kind of text messages that circulated two weekends ago "warning" that a patient had been diagnosed with the virus at a private clinic in Westlands, Nairobi.

Although Public Health Minister Beth Mugo was quick to issue the reassuring statement that the tests had turned up negative, many people I spoke to seemed shaken by the rumours.

That was, at least, until the first case was confirmed in Kisumu that our mob psychology changed.

I don’t know if it is our innocence, concern, curiosity or ignorance, but many people in Kisumu were craving to know the hotel in which the British students had been quarantined.

Initially, I thought it was a great idea to name the hotel so that people would keep off. But no, I was very wrong; people wanted to go and ‘see’.

God knows how Kenyans love ‘seeing’. When an initial grenade explosion was heard at the then US embassy in 1998, many curious people ran towards the scene to catch a glimpse of what was happening. Of course when the bomb went off soon after, many of these curious onlookers turned victims.

When buildings collapse or fires break out, Kenyans rush to the scene.

I am sure if police had not taken steps to bar access to The Duke of Breeze hospital in Kisumu, throngs of people would have showed up wanting to catch a glimpse of the quarantined students oblivious of the dangers they were exposing themselves to.

They know that Swine Flu is an airborne disease, but the curiosity would not let them remember this. You will see jostling to get as close as possible to have the best view of ‘how people with Swine Flu look like’.

They will say sorry, they will look sad, very concerned Kenyans indeed!

Experts have said time and again that people should cover their mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing. But how many of us have you seen use a handkerchiefs or tissues?

In Kenya again, why should we go to hospital yet it is just some cough, some cold or ache? Remember Swine Flu has similar symptoms.

People go to hospital only when they are very sick, after buying all sorts of painkillers from chemists.

Some of us claim to be ‘professional doctors’. We claim to know how to diagnose malaria, amoeba and even pneumonia. We are good at prescribing medication too, aren’t we?
 
The only time we present ourselves to hospital is when our prescriptions fail to work.

When I think of the nightclubs, the slums, the churches, our ignorance, curiosity and concern, I can only expect that the almighty will protect Kenyans from this virus.

He knows all too well we are not keen at screening people at our entry points.

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