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Kenya's COVID-19 curve has been flattening in recent weeks. /CFM-FILE.

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Chronic patients at higher risk of contracting COVID-19

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 1 – People living with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer are more likely to be severely ill when infected with Coronavirus disease.

Elderly people aged over 60 are also vulnerable, as seen in figures released from the Ministry of Health detailing positive cases.

By June 1, 69 people had died of COVID-19 in Kenya while 2,021 had been infected.

According to the Kenya Stepwise survey for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), these diseases account for over 50 percent of inpatient admissions and 40 percent of hospital mortality.

Therefore, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of NCDs must be a cornerstone of the COVID-19 response in Kenya.

 The Ministry of Health, Kenya Cardiac Society and the NCD Alliance of Kenya have called for continuity of essential health services for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as heart diseases, diabetes and cancer which are still the leading cause of death worldwide.  

They observed that there was a significant drop in hospital visits by the public since the onset of the COVID -19 pandemic, including in Kenya where most hospitals remained deserted.

Many patients may not continue with their routine treatment and are, therefore, unable to adequately manage their conditions while at home.

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The negative consequence of this has a greater impact on people living with NCDs who need long term follow-ups and medication.

This may result in increased complications and even fatalities reversing the gains made to address the growing burden of NCDs in the country.

“The Ministry of Health is keen on continuity of Universal Health Coverage and therefore is working alongside key stakeholders to ensure that these diseases are not side-lined at this time. Some of the measures that have been put in place include ensuring all NCD clinics at the county health facilities remain open so that patients can get the services they need including medication. Strict infection prevention and control measures have been put in place at the clinics to ensure that patients and the public are protected even as they seek care,” said Ephantus Maree, Head of NCD prevention & control unit.

The Ministry of Health has issued guidance to persons living with NCDs on what they need to do at this time to ensure they are able to manage their conditions.

This includes ensuring that they continue with their medication and have enough drugs to last one month or more.

Patients with hypertension and diabetes should continue monitoring their blood pressure (BP) and blood sugar regularly while at home.

“Kenya Cardiac Society would like to emphasis on the importance of continuing to seek essential health services during the on-going Coronavirus Pandemic. Patients with Hypertension and other heart diseases should continue with the treatment routine as prescribed by their health provider. In addition, they should not hesitate to seek health services in case of emergencies or if they develop symptoms while at home.”

“At this time, partnerships and collaborations are key in the provision of quality healthcare services. I commend the Ministry of Health for the efforts they have put in place to ensure that NCDs services continue to be available at the county health facilities,” noted the President of Kenya Cardiac Society, Bernard Gitura.

Speaking during the stakeholder webinar co-organized with Pfizer’s Upjohn Division, Catherine Karekezi, member of the NCD Alliance of Kenya highlighted:

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“There is an urgent need to sustain public awareness campaigns and interventions to reduce risk factors and the burden of cardiovascular diseases in Kenya. During this period where people are being encouraged to stay at home, we urge all to keep active and do regular physical activities at home, avoid unhealthy diet and food with high salt content as well as refrain from excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco use to evade a surge of NCD illnesses once the pandemic is over.”

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