Twenty one people have been admitted to various hospitals in Mombasa over the past few days following a new outbreak of hepatitis A, county health officials have said.
Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infected person.
Mombasa Health executive Mohammed Abdi said the disease had been on the rise since January among school children and had escalated due to water contamination in the county.
“We have got an outbreak of hepatitis A which we discovered in January in the schools around Mvita where we had a few cases which we made a follow up on and treated.
“Right now we have had a recurrence of the same over the Easter break.
“We have over 21 cases in various private hospitals,” said Mr Abdi during an interview at the Likoni Sub-County Hospital on Tuesday.
He said that they had also received confirmation from the county laboratory that most of the water sources had faecal contamination.
Mr Abdi urged the public to observe high standards of hygiene adding that they also had embarked on public awareness programmes and water treatment to contain the outbreak.
“We are suspecting poor hygiene and contamination of our water sources to be the leading cause of hepatitis A.
“We have started a campaign to treat all the water points in conjunction with Mombasa Water and Coast Water services who are treating piped water [while] our public health officers are treating wells,” Mr Abdi said.
He further added that that the disease may have escalated due to public consumption of unsafe drinking water from unknown sources during the current hot season.
Chief Officer of Health Khadija Shikely, who accompanied Mr Abdi, said the hepatitis A patients who visited hospitals for treatment displayed symptoms of fever, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, dark-coloured urine, fatigue, jaundice – yellowing of the skin – and whiteness of the eyes.
Mr Abdi noted that the yellowness of the eyes is sometimes mistaken for yellow fever, following the recent discovery of two cases in Nairobi.
“I appeal to the public to ensure they wash their hands after visiting the latrine, before eating food and ensure food consumed from vendors has been prepared in hygienic conditions.
“We do not know how long this disease will take [before it is contained] so the public need to safeguard themselves,” he said.
Changamwe public health officer Nelly Tindel, who, together with other officers were busy treating wells in the county, urged residents to be careful when drawing water from wells to avoid interfering with the treatment that is put in them.
“The little pots we put with strings hanging in the wells are not witchcraft but are filled with chlorine which slowly dissolves and treats water in the wells.
“After 15 to 30 minutes, the water is safe for consumption,” said Ms Tindel.