Kenya is gambling with Swine Flu

About a month ago, I raised concern in a blog over screening measures at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) following an outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus commonly known as Swine Flu across the globe.

At the time, I had returned home from New York, which is one of the American states that has reported cases of the virus.

Despite going through meticulous checks in Dubai, no one bothered to screen or even ask us our port of origin.  Never mind that the flight was full to capacity.

When I enquired at the Public Health Ministry, they said not everyone was being screened because it would be ‘inconveniencing to visitors’.

And now it has come; the virus is with us following detection from a British student who arrived in the country over a week ago.

My question is, how did 34 students from the United Kingdom get into the country without undergoing screening? 

Previous media reports have indicated that Britain is most at risk to the spread of an influenza pandemic, closely followed by The Netherlands, Germany, Italy and South Korea, according to a ranking of 213 countries.

Why did these students not undergo stringent checks at the JKIA?

I know there is the argument of a 10-day incubation period before a case can be detected but I am willing to bet a huge sum that those students did not undergo any screening at the airport.

Another case that turned negative on June 27 also involved a Kenyan student who had traveled from the UK. She took herself to a private clinic saying she had been in contact with someone who had suffered the flu.

This is the same thing that happened with the 20 year old student who tested positive to the virus.

These two youngsters presented themselves to hospitals.  What if they hadn’t?
According to the Public Health Ministry, there are 26 surveillance sites but to me they are just sites.

We are waiting for people to present themselves in hospitals with symptoms rather than aggressively screening them. Tell me why it won’t spread like wildfire.

Just imagine if the disease had started in Kenya or any other African nation. Do you think you would get into any of these European countries as easily as you allow them here?

You would go through such humiliating screening that many would think twice before making overseas travel.

But if we have been unable to manage a simple disease like cholera, how will we manage the swine flu if it spreads like it has in other countries? Who is there to save us, because obviously the government can’t?

You may brag that there are over 50,000 Tamiflu doses in the stockpile, but who assures you of a refill once they are over. The disease is in all continents and guess what… it will turn out to be a game of might.

It’s time we took steps to attract tourists but at the same time protecting our citizens against such unnecessary exposure to such ailments.  The H1N1 influenza virus should be treated like any other security concern.

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