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Kenya raises swine flu alert

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 18 – The government has said Kenyans should brace for more outbreaks of swine flu as the number of confirmed cases in the country shot to 71 in less than two months.

Public Health Minister Beth Mugo said on Tuesday that the latest cases reported in Keiyo and Nyeri districts confirmed there was now local transmission of the deadly disease.

“We have to accept nature where sometimes things are beyond us. We do the very best we can but if Britain has not even been able with all its resources to prevent the spread, surely we would be expecting too much to think that we should be able to prevent this disease from spreading here,” the Minister remarked.

According to the statistics given by the Ministry, Nairobi had the highest number of confirmed cases at 40 followed by Kisumu with 18 cases. Rift Valley had 10 cases while Garissa and Nyeri had two and one case of AH1N1 respectively.

The Minister said that 304 suspected cases in Keiyo district (Rift Valley province) were still under investigation.

“Now that the disease is beginning to be transmitted here in the country, we intend to ask the Cabinet to prepare a memo to ask for more funds to specifically fight this disease,” she said.

Mrs Mugo however assured there was no cause for alarm as all the confirmed cases were mild and did not need administering of the Tamiflu drug.

“We had about 52,000 doses of Tamiflu when the first case was reported in June and we have not administered more than 200 doses, so you can see how mild the disease is,” she said.

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Head of Disease Prevention and Control, Dr Willis Akhwale said it was not yet known whether there was risk of re- infection after a person has had the first exposure.

The first cases of the AH1N1 influenza virus that involved Kenyans were reported in June.

This was after a student from the United Kingdom tested positive to the flu. He and his 33 colleagues were quarantined for six days in a Kisumu hotel.  

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there were 177,457 reported cases of the influenza AHINI and 1,462 deaths globally as of 6 August.

However it states that since countries were no longer required to test and report individual cases, the number of those reported could actually understate the real number of cases.

In mid June, the WHO raised the Pandemic alert status from phase 5 to phase 6, which meant that the disease had reached the emergency level.

The new strain of AH1N1 Influenza virus 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 new strain, which is transmitted from human to human, has not circulated previously in humans. The virus is contagious, spreading easily from one person to another and from one country to another.

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Young people under the age of 25 years are the main casualties in all the countries.

A similar outbreak occurred in 1918 but was more severe than the current epidemic but the WHO warned that this may change hence the need for more vigilance.


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