34 British students transferred to Nairobi overnight
- Blood samples from 8 family members in Garissa taken for further testing in Nairobi
The 34 British students, from amongst whom the first case of the H1N1 virus in Kenya was reported, were on Saturday night escorted under a tight security from Kisumu to Nairobi.
In a clandestine Police operation, the students were shuttled from Duke of Breeze hotel, where they had been quarantined, through the back gate aboard three 10-passenger carriers.
The convoy was led by a chase car belonging to the Kenya Police highway patrol after it emerged that local journalists had got wind of the transfer.
The transfer of the students from Kisumu was co-ordinated by Dr Joshua Odongo of Widows and Orphans International (UK).
Three shuttles were seen entering the hotel through the back gate at 6.30 Saturday evening, and left the facility at 8.15 carrying the 34 students under tight police security.
Hardly had the convoy made it 10 kilometers from Kisumu town, at Masogo junction, when they were caught in a traffic snarl-up along the Kisumu - Kericho highway.
The 34 British students are expected to travel back to the UK on Sunday.
The students were on a volunteer mission near the lakeside town when of them was positively diagnosed for the H1N1 flu.
Meanwhile eight more suspected cases of the H1N1 virus were reported in Garissa town on Saturday.
Addressing a news conference on Saturday, the Garissa Medical Officer of Health, Dr Abdullahi Abagira, said initial tests on blood samples taken from members of one family had shown traces of the virus.
The medical chief said additional blood samples had been taken to Nairobi for further testing and that health officials were on the lookout to contain the virus.
Dr Abagira did not disclose the nationality of the individuals, but the family is said to have travelled from Britain. Their five-year-old child was diagnosed with the virus.
The Health Ministry public relations officer, Mr John Kinuthia, confirmed that the child had been taken ill, but said the other family members were just suspected cases.
If confirmed, this would push the reported swine flu cases in Kenya to 20 after the World Health Organisation recorded 12 cases by Saturday.
In Kisumu, Health officials said they have contained the H1N1 virus even as the residents of Alendu village in Nyando constituency anxiously await the results of the tests carried out on pupils at local schools.
“The delay has been occasioned by the large number of samples we took and this may take time to test,” said Dr Jackson Kioko, Nyanza’s director of public health.
He said the situation was under control with the 34 British nationals isolated in a Kisumu hotel receiving their last doses of the antiviral Tamiflu medication.
The students were due to travel to Nairobi Saturday but Dr Kioko said that they would be doing so on Sunday morning.
“We examined the students yesterday and none of them showed symptoms of the flu,” Dr Kioko said.
Meanwhile, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka has asked Kenyans and foreign visitors to ignore the alarm raised by the reports of swine flu and visit various tourist attractions in the country “normally”.
The Vice-President spoke on Friday night at the residence of the Ambassador of the Czech Republic, Mrs Margita Fuchsova.
“Health authorities have indicated that this is a mild flu, so people should not fear. Go about your activities normally,” he said.
He called on more tourists from Europe to visit Kenya and enjoy the country’s diverse cultures.
“During these tough economic times, it is important for the EU and Kenya to stand together. This is best demonstrated through people-to-people contacts,” he said.
Mrs Fuchsova said they decided to celebrate the end of the Czech presidency of the European Union through sports and cultural exchange as a way of bringing the two countries together.
Heritage minister William Ntimama said cultural tourism was growing fast to rival the Big Five of Kenya’s attractions.
“In order to showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage, we are going to intensify cultural exchanges with other foreign countries,” he said.
Sports and Youth minister Hellen Sambili praised the co-operation in sports between the two countries, saying that the relationship will help to motivate Kenyan sportsmen and women to excel.
Reported by Issa Hussein, Walter Menya, KNA and VPPS.