The Nation (Nairobi)

22 October 2001

Kenya: Union Wants Anthrax Vaccine for Workers

The Union of Posts and Telecommunications workers want mail handlers vaccinated as the anthrax scare spreads.

The protective gear given to workers by the Postal Corporation of Kenya was not enough, the Nairobi branch of the Union of Posts and Telecommunications said yesterday.

Mr Abel Nandwa, the branch secretary, said "Vaccination against anthrax is considered more effective than body protective gear."

The vaccination, he said, should extend to employees of DHL, UPS, TNT Express and other courier service organisations.

Mr Nandwa said workers have been scared by the threat of bioterrorism. He called for the setting up of a safe working environment for employees.

"Germ war should not be seen as a problem but as a challenge," he said.

He appealed to workers be calm as the postal sector faces its biggest security challenge.

Last Thursday, Public Health Minister Sam Ongeri confirmed that Kenya had become a victim of the anthrax terror after several parcels were found to have the deadly powder.

The Government has since taken precautionary measures against threats of germ warfare after verifying that the powder found in three mails addressed to the United Nations offices in Gigiri, Nairobi and to a businessman contained anthrax bacteria.

Courier service firms have resolved not accept pre-sealed consignments from unknown shippers.

The postal corporation held a meeting with mail handlers to warn them of the anthrax scare.

Ministry of Health officials have impounded a suspicious package delivered to a company in Mombasa for testing.

No staff member at TNT Express had come into contact with the package that contained a white substance, a statement from the company said.

The Director of Medical Services, Dr Richard Muga, said on Saturday that the number of letters being handed to the Government for anthrax testing was increasing rapidly, but added that all bar one had tested negative.

Kenya became the first country outside the United States to confirm a positive case of anthrax sent by post on Thursday, but tests on a further 10 suspect letters showed no sign of the spores, Dr Muga said.

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