Kenya: Spike in Covid-19 Deaths as Young People Succumb

Health workers take samples for Covid-19 tests from hotel workers in Nyeri town on July 9.

Covid-19 claimed almost 200 lives last month, with the national toll now inching closer to 400.

The latest situation report from the Ministry of Health shows that the country lost 192 lives to the virus in July as compared to 85 in June, and 44 in May.

On Saturday, the country recorded its highest daily fatalities at 24, with the death toll hitting 369 on Sunday, even as it emerged that more young people are succumbing to the disease.

The fatality rate for July stood at 1.8 per cent, as compared 2.5 per cent in June. In April, the death rate averaged 5.1 per cent while May had 3.4 per cent.

From the fatality trend witnessed in July, the numbers are expected to rise further this month, as the disease spreads to villages and estates.

Female teenagers

In the last 48 hours, 28 lives have been lost to Covid-19, even as the positive cases rose to 22, 053.

"This disease has left a trail of pain and anguish as families mourn their loved ones," Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said last month. An analysis of the deaths shows that it is only female teenagers aged between 10-19 who have not reported any deaths, even as men over 60 years continue to form the bulk of the Covid-19 fatalities at 33 per cent.

The data shows that men aged between 50-60 years were the second high-risk group at 15 per cent, followed by those in the 40-50 age bracket at 14 per cent.

Despite the women in these three groups being at greater risk, they still formed a lower percentage of the fatalities at nine per cent for those over 60 years, six per cent for those between 50-59, and five per cent for those between 40-49 years.

Underlying conditions

Infants, and those between 20 and 40 years have also seen the numbers of fatalities to Covid-19 rise, pointing to a reality that the disease does not only affect the elderly.

Experts say that some young people without underlying conditions are succumbing to Covid-19 because they seek medical attention when it was already too late. Dr Bernard Muia, a public health expert, told the Nation that young people are not invincible to the disease and should take care of themselves.

"The youth think that they are invincible and thus cannot get the virus. Unfortunately, that kind of perception is misleading. Their health seeking behaviour is also very poor," he said.

The country has recorded eight deaths of children of under 10 years to Covid-19, with another nine deaths of those between 20 and 29 years. Over 30 deaths have been of those between 30-39 years.

From the confirmation of the first death in March 28, to the latest figure of 197 as at Sunday, the death toll is steadily rising.

For 10 days between April 19 and April 29, no deaths were reported, same as between May 16 and May 24.

Since then, it was only on July 27 that no deaths were reported, but with the latest double-digit fatalities, it shows the disease has started ravaging communities.

Diabetes, Mr Kagwe said, has become the leading cause of death among Covid-19 patients, with most of the fatalities occurring among those with pre-existing conditions.

Heart diseases

Last month, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics report showed that 15 per cent of Kenyan households have a member who is ailing from diabetes, while a further 18.5 per cent have a member with pre-existing medical conditions -- including heart diseases, HIV/Aids, cancer and high blood pressure.

"People suffering from these diseases are more vulnerable to contracting the virus and are therefore advised to take extra precaution," Mr Kagwe said.

"In case you have not noticed, diabetes in probably the highest in terms of persons who have passed on with underlying issues."

As at the start of last month, data from the ministry showed that a majority of the adults aged between 20 and 39 who succumbed to the highly contagious respiratory illness had hypertension and diabetes while there were also those who had HIV/AIDS, kidney disorders, and liver disease.

It has also emerged that some community deaths as a result of Covid-19 are not being reported, even as the ministry tries to solve this problem.

"Whereas community deaths are being reported, communities are not reporting the deaths to health workers," the ministry said in the report.

"This is a challenge for the Covid-19 response, especially in responding to alerts and sample collections. This may be due to interest to preserve cultural practices in burials. Dialogue with community opinion leaders in Kilifi County especially is ongoing."

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