16 July 2017

Kenya: Events Show Cholera No Longer Limited to Poor Kenyans

Photo: Anthony Omuya/Ther Nation
Nairobi County Health Executive Dr Benard Muia during a press briefing on July 15, 2017.

For years, cholera has been associated with poverty. That is no longer the case.

On Friday, three top government officials were treated for cholera-related symptoms after they had meals during a trade fair at Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, his Trade counterpart Adan Mohammed and Trade Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo were among more than 50 people treated and discharged for cholera related symptoms.

The incident comes barely a month after a doctors' conference at Weston Hotel, Lang'ata ended prematurely following a cholera outbreak.

WESTON HOTEL

Twenty six participants were admitted to Nairobi Hospital after taking meals at the hotel. A doctor from the UK was flown home for treatment.

The chairman of the conference organising committee, Joseph Aluoch, said participants fell ill almost immediately after having lunch.

Dr Aluoch said the source of the infection might have been from "packed lunch which contained fish".

In May, three people died of cholera after attending a high-end wedding in Karen.

Five others, including a German, were treated in various city hospitals.

Mr Alex Wolf, a German who was at the wedding with his Kenyan girlfriend, was put in an isolation ward at Nairobi Hospital. He later developed kidney complications.

CATERING COMPANIES

The three cases -- Karen, Weston and KICC -- involved outdoor catering companies.

Kisumu Chief Health Officer Ojwang' Lusi on Saturday said the way food was handled might have led to contamination.

"Cholera is brought about by eating raw contaminated food, including salads. There is a misconception that eating salad in a high-end hotel is safe," Dr Lusi said.

He added that salads were harvested from farms, handled with dirty hands and eaten raw from plates often washed with dirty water.

INCUBATION PERIOD

Cholera is easy to detect since its incubation period is three to five days.

Other diseases resulting from contaminated food or water such as typhoid take longer to show symptoms.

Dr Amos Otedo from Kisumu advises hotel owners and management to insist on workers being vaccinated against cholera, typhoid and amoeba after every three months.

"If cholera gets to slums, we will lose a lot of people," he said.

FOOD HANDLERS

Mr Eric Kibe programme director at SafiServe, a company that trains food handlers on safety and hygiene hotels must prioritise safety.

"They have a moral and ethical duty to ensure meals are fit for consumption," he said.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal illness caused by the bacteriium Vibrio cholerae.

It infects a person's intestines. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea and vomiting.

Death usually follows if the disease is not treated properly.

POOR HYGIENE

Lack of toilets, poor hygiene and unsafe drinking water have been blamed for cholera outbreaks. Slum dwellers are particularly vulnerable.

Families and hotels are advised to ensure food is properly cooked.

Water vendors in Kenyan towns, including Nairobi, can help spread the disease. Burst sewer pipes are also a danger.

In the United States, children and adults are vaccinated against cholera.

Adults need a booster after two years. It is six months for children aged two to six.

ORAL REHYDRATION

Patients should also take large quantities of an oral rehydration solution containing sugar and salt.

The disease can easily be prevented. One is advised to eat food that is cooked and served hot and to drink beverages from sealed bottles or cans.

Careful hand hygiene should be observed. Food handlers must wash their hands with soap and clean water and after using the bathroom.

City Health executive Benard Muia says all unlicensed open cooking places will be shut.

Many county governments are building toilets, discouraging open defecation and creating hygiene awareness.

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