Kenya braced for swine flu threat

April 29, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 29 – The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it has enough stock of drugs that could be used in reducing the severity of the fast spreading swine fever that has so far killed more than 150 people in Mexico.

WHO Disease Prevention Control Programme Officer Dr Joyce Onsongo said on Wednesday that there was an international emergency stock of three million tablets for distribution in any country that reports an outbreak.

Speaking after the opening of a sensitisation meeting on International Health Regulations, Ms Onsongo said Kenya had already taken some stock just in case of any cases.

“We have some anti virals, but I must say that these are really not cure drugs, they reduce the severity of the disease so they can be given to people who already got the symptoms to reduce the severity. But it does not serve as a cure; as you know viruses really have no cure,” she stated.

Public Health Minister Beth Mugo emphasised the need for Kenyans to observe personal hygiene to prevent an outbreak of the swine fever, which is a human to human viral infection.

“Through our close collaboration with WHO and other partners, we have been able to initiate cross border surveillance and institute control measures,” Mrs Mugo said.

Currently there is no vaccine available to protect against swine flu, which was first reported in Mexico and is spreading fast to other parts of the world.

According to the International health body it would take six months to produce a prevention vaccine.

On Tuesday, the Kenyan government assured that it had scaled up surveillance at all entry points to ensure the swine flu virus stayed out of the country.

The Public Health Minister said that medical personnel would diligently screen passengers travelling into the country for signs of infection, adding that 26 influenza sentinel surveillance sites had been upgraded to detect any occurrence of illnesses related to the virus.

The swine flu is believed to be caused by a mutated H5N1 strain virus subtype, which also causes bird flu.

The new form contains DNA sequences from human and avian influenza viruses, as well as from other strains of swine influenza.

The infection progresses rapidly. In those most severely affected in the Mexican outbreak, potentially fatal respiratory problems developed after less than a week of coughing, aches and fever.

In Mexico, the death rate is unusually high among those who develop respiratory distress.


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