KENYA: Long rains raise fears of new cholera cases
The use of contaminated water causes diarrhoea (file photo)
ISIOLO, 1 April 2009 (IRIN) - New cases of cholera are being recorded amid fears of an increase in the spread of the disease as the long rains start. Already, cases have been reported in 17 districts, according to a senior health official.
"At least 176 cases of acute watery diarrhoea [AWD] have been reported in Kipsing [north of the eastern district of Isiolo]; of these, at least three have tested positive for cholera," Shahnaaz Sharif, the director of public health and sanitation, told IRIN.
"Some 1,097 AWD cases have been reported nationally since late 2008, of which 137 have tested positive for cholera," he said. Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness. Although infection is often mild, death can occur within hours without treatment, due to dehydration.
Three deaths had been confirmed in Kipsing, Sharif said. The diarrhoea outbreak has been attributed to the use of contaminated water from a dry riverbed due to prolonged drought.
A lack of access to health facilities for those living in remote parts of the predominantly pastoralist Isiolo District had contributed to the deaths, according to the district steering group.
Isiolo medical officer Stephen Kiluva told IRIN that an isolation ward has been reserved for the infected at Isiolo district hospital; a temporary ward has also been set up in a classroom in Kipsing, 40km from Isiolo.
"We need food, mattresses and ... additional personnel as well as vehicles and drugs. It is expensive caring for those [who are] out of town," Kiluva said.
A ban on food hawking and the sale and delivery of raw cow and camel milk is in place in the affected areas, according to the district public health officer, Richard Lyusah.
Cholera cases have also been reported in the Moyale
locality in the northeast. As of 25 March, 172 cases of cholera, mostly women, had been reported in the township, Manyatta Burji, and Ethiopia/Biashara street areas bordering the Moyale locality in Ethiopia, according to a health ministry briefing.
"Because of the current drought, residents are using untreated water from boreholes that just three months ago had been submerged," Titus Mung’ou, Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) communications manager, told IRIN, adding that limited latrine coverage and cross-border interaction had fuelled the spread.
Mung’ou expressed concern that the spread of the disease would be exacerbated should the rains bring floods. In late 2008, floods submerged hundreds of latrines and contaminated water sources in the northeast, with cases of diarrhoea reported.
High water-table levels in some of the affected areas increased the risk of contamination, he said.
The province of Nyanza is also facing its third outbreak of cholera since December 2007, with the districts of Kisumu East and West, Nyando, Rachuonyo, Homa Bay, Migori, Suba and Rongo affected, according to KRCS. Cases have also been reported
in Kakamega, in Western Province, and Athi River, near Nairobi.
Mung’ou said the outbreak in Kisumu East was due to the contamination of water sources by municipal and residential waste and a lack of proper drainage. Seepage from latrines into wells was also a risk factor in the Nyanza region.
KRCS and Ministry of Health teams are carrying out water purification and trucking in affected areas.