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No high alert for yellow fever, says Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday August 17 2016

A woman receives yellow fever vaccination. Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu   says Kenya has beefed up national surveillance of  yellow fever at points of entry such as airports and border towns. PHOTO | COURTESY

A woman receives yellow fever vaccination. Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu says Kenya has beefed up national surveillance of yellow fever at points of entry such as airports and border towns. PHOTO | COURTESY 

By EUNICE KILONZO
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Kenya has not put in place new measures to tackle yellow fever, a disease that has so far claimed more than 440 lives in Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Instead, Kenya has beefed up national surveillance of the viral disease at points of entry such as airports and border towns, Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu told Nation on Tuesday.

Dr Mailu said the surveillance was “keeping track of the trend of the infection and we are planning appropriately”.

“As there are no other cases since the last two in March this year, we are continuing with routine checks,” he said.

Both cases were male Kenyans in their early 30s working in Luanda, Angola and showed symptoms of the disease on arrival in the country between March 12 and 18.

Both had never been vaccinated. One succumbed to multiple organ failure and the other was treated and later discharged.

The Health CS added: “We are also letting the public know that the yellow fever vaccine is for life and not 10 years as initially thought.”

The Ministry of Health has listed 23 centres where Kenyans can get the vaccine.

These are ports of entry like Kilindini Port (Mombasa), all airports (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Moi, Eldoret, Kisumu, Malindi, Lokichogio, Wajir and Wilson airports), one-stop border posts (Taveta, Lungalunga, Namanga, Isebania, Malaba, Busia and Loitoktok).

It is also available at Kenyatta National Hospital, Armed Forces Memorial Hospital and at health facilities operated by county health authorities and at county headquarters in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret.

This comes as an emergency vaccination programme is under way in DR Congo, targeting three million people in a desperate move to curb the spread of the disease caused by the same mosquito that causes Zika, Aedes Egypti.

The first yellow fever cases were detected in Luanda, Angola, late last December and were confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa on January 19, 2016 and by the Institut Pasteur Dakar on January 20.

The DRC has reported 1,798 suspected and 68 confirmed cases with 85 reported deaths as at June 24.

In Angola, the Health ministry reported 3,625 suspected cases from December 5, 2015 to July 8, 2016, of which 876 were laboratory confirmed. The number of reported deaths is 357, of which 117 were among confirmed cases.

What is worrying is that there is persistent local transmission in the country despite approximately 15 million people having been vaccinated.

Save the Children, a British charity, has warned that a yellow fever outbreak — currently the largest global one in three decades — in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola could soon spread to Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Kenya and the People’s Republic of China reported two and 11 cases respectively, all imported from Angola.

Seven countries — Brazil, Chad, Colombia, Ghana, Guinea, Peru and Uganda — are currently experiencing yellow fever outbreaks or sporadic cases not linked to the Angolan one.