, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 19 – The Ministry of Health has indefinitely closed down the Jacaranda Hotel and San Valencia Restaurant following a cholera outbreak in Nairobi.
Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu explained that the establishments will remain shut until they comply with new food safety requirements.
This is after the two establishments were found to have offered catering services at separate events attended by participants who were later hospitalised after developing cholera-like symptoms.
He indicated that more may be targeted after the government ordered all food handlers to acquire fresh certification within 21 days.
“We have so far closed two hotels – Jacaranda and Valencia and we shall continue to do so if there is evidence that there is risk to the public.”
“We are going to be very strict that if you are a hotel or a restaurant and you cannot serve the number of people coming to the conference, then you should not take up that assignment; and if you do and you want to outsource you should report to the City Public Health Department 14-days in advance so that people can go and check the source of that food,” the CS stated.
He explained that the certification shall only be issued once the staff and premises are tested and found to comply with set standards.
“We know there are close to a million food handlers in Nairobi and therefore in absence of authenticating the food handlers certificate, we expect owners of restaurants, food outlets to take this opportunity to ensure all workers within their premises are tested. This is not negotiable!” Mailu announced.
The Health Cabinet Secretary was speaking after visiting patients at the Kenyatta National Hospital which has received 101 patients since April when the outbreak was first reported, 67 of whom are currently undergoing treatment for a particular strain of cholera.
“The acute diarrhoeal illness being experienced seems to have one strain of cholera so far, though we cannot identify it,” said Dr Mailu.
Mailu also directed a crackdown on water bowser operators and vendors who have taken advantage of a biting water shortage in the city to supply most business and residents with the essential commodity.
He said the water must undergo inspection by the County Government to disclose the sources.
“We are also going to crack down on the water bowsers because it is possible that where they get this water is not a good place.”
“Mine is to urge members of the public and press to support the initiatives we are going to be carrying out. Some of them will not be pleasant to the people because we will close down markets; we will close down hotels or restaurants and we will ensure that people are tested. This is a serious issue for us and we will tackle it as such,” the CS told journalists.
He emphasised that the water must be chlorinated before use adding that all caterers must liaise with the Environmental Health Department at City Hall before providing services.
The Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko indicated that 500,000 water tablets will be distributed in areas susceptible to the cholera bacteria.
He stated that the ministry will also be setting up treatment centres in six informal settlements at Mukuru kwa Njenga, Mukuru kwa Reuben, Mathare, Kibera, Kawangware and Mbagathi Hospital.
CS Mailu urged Kenyans to remain on high alert and observe high personal hygiene even as he directed the County Government Sanitation Department to ensure all broken sewers are fixed as they are a possible source of the outbreak.
Cabinet Secretaries Henry Rotich (National Treasury), Adan Mohammed (Trade and Industralisation) and Chris Kiptoo (Trade PS) and several staff from the two ministries were among at least 70 patients treated for cholera-related symptoms.
They fell ill after eating food at a trade event at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
A similar case of cholera was reported at Weston Hotel in Nairobi in June after doctors attending a week-long health conference at the hotel were admitted after testing positive for cholera.
The cholera death toll across the country rose to four from the two reported on Monday, with the number of confirmed cases in 12 counties including Nairobi and Garissa rising to 381 up from 364 in the same period.