Cholera spreads in Kenya

June 23, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 23 – Kenya is in urgent need of an extra Sh40 million to contain the spread of cholera which has 26 killed people in just three weeks.

The water-borne disease has killed 89 people since December 2008 and now Public Health Minister Beth Mugo says Sh 62 million is needed to stop the outbreak. The Ministry has already received Sh22 million from the World Health Organisation (WHO) towards the project.

“This is an emergency. When an outbreak occurs, it is not planned for in the budget and we try to gather whatever little we have to contain the situation. So it is about time that we should now provide contingent funds for emergencies,” she said.

More than 3,900 suspected cases have been reported out of which there are laboratory confirmations of about 200 cases.

“This is not a problem that can be solved overnight. Take the example of areas where there is no water, people are hawking water everywhere and no one really knows where this water is coming from,” she said.

Mrs Mugo also cited lack of proper toilet facilities, but said most of the cases reported in hospitals were not due to cholera.

“In some areas we have two percent usage of latrines. If those people use the bush and the rains come, all that dirt is washed to the lake, river or whatever water source so it is highly likely they are going to get infected with diarrhoea not necessarily cholera if they consume that water.”

“Most people including the media have missed out on the case definition of cholera,” she said.

“Once a laboratory diagnosis of cholera in an area has been made, any case of acute onset watery effortless diarrhoea in an adult or child above two years of age must be treated as a case of cholera,” the Minister said.

The Minister however said this does not mean that all the suspected cases are actually cases of cholera.

She said more health workers have been recruited on temporary basis and posted to the affected areas. 10 have been posted to Moyale, 12 in Laisamis and negotiations are ongoing with the WHO to employ more health workers in Garbatulla.

Speaking separately, Water and Irrigation Permanent Secretary David Stower said the Ministry had stepped up its efforts on water provision to stop further spread of cholera.

“We have teams in the field in different parts of the country working closely with the Kenya Red Cross and other NGOs to bring those outbreaks under control,” the PS said.

“In the case of Mombasa for instance, we are rehabilitating Baricho water works to bring in an additional 30 million litres of water per day,” he added.

According to the WHO, cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with a bacterium known as Vibrio Cholerae.

It has a short incubation period of less than one day to five days after which it causes profuse painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.

Vomiting also occurs in most patients.

The WHO recommends the use of oral rehydration salts which can also be homemade using half a teaspoon of salt and six level teaspoons of sugar dissolved in one litre of safe water, to reduce deaths from cholera.

In its website, the International health body says lightly salted rice water or plain water can also be given to a cholera patient before seeking medical attention.

This could avert up to 80 percent of deaths from cholera.


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