Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cholera kills 7 as outbreak spreads

By NATION Team

The death toll from a cholera outbreak in Mutomo District has risen to seven, with more infections being recorded every day.

The seven died at Mutomo Mission Hospital where they were being treated. The deaths came as health authorities disclosed that 1,134 people had been diagnosed with the disease in the district.

Relatives have been barred from visiting patients admitted to the hospital in a desperate bid to contain the outbreak, which has spread to neighbouring Yatta District, where Medical Officer of Health John Logedi confirmed 180 people were being treated.

Mutomo Medical Officer of Health Patrick Mutuku confirmed the infections and attributed the high numbers to poor sanitation and an acute water shortage. A 20-litre container of water sells for Sh30 in the dry area.

Mr Mutuku said hospitals were stretched and the staff overwhelmed. “We urge people to be careful with their home and personal hygiene and, more importantly, to wash their hands after every activity,” he appealed.

Boarding schools have been ordered not to allow outsiders onto their premises and a ban on food hawking has been imposed. Eating places at Mutomo market have to pass stringent daily health inspections before opening for business. The mission hospital administrator, Sister Kathleen Rooney, said the majority of patients were children, the poor and elderly.

She said the situation was critical as the government had not provided enough drugs to treat those who could not afford to pay. And on Wednesday, Médecins Sans Frontières sent a medical team and supplies to El Molo, close to Loyangalani, following reports of an outbreak in the area.

Since September 29, Médecins Sans Frontières, working with the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation have treated 47 people in El Molo and 157 in Loyangalani for the disease. Meanwhile, swine flu has reached some of Kenya’s most vulnerable residents after 21 cases were confirmed in two refugee camps.

Five people have been diagnosed with the flu at Kakuma camp and another 16 at Hagadera camp in Dadaab. The International Rescue Committee, an NGO working in the camps, blamed crowding for the spread of the disease.

Dadaab, originally built for 90,000 refugees, is now home to nearly 300,000. None of the swine flu cases in the refugee camps is life-threatening, but IRC has been stockpiling drugs in case of an outbreak, media officer Joanne Offer said. The Public Health and Sanitation ministry says there are 350 confirmed cases of swine flu in Kenya.

Reports by Kitavi Mutua, Kibiwott Koross and Cynthia Vukets