Medical personnel at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport allowed a sick man into the country without sending him to an isolation area, despite noticing he was unwell.
Just three days later, the man who had yellow fever died at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) where he had been taken for treatment by his family.
The officials at JKIA picked his contacts for follow-up on realising that he was coming from Angola, a country where yellow fever had killed 250 people.
The patient did not have a yellow fever certificate, a fact that should have triggered the health officials to hold him for further screening and isolation.
The 31-year-old Kenyan working in Angola, had returned home after a 10-year stay in the southern African nation.
SCREENED AT AIRPORT
The man landed at JKIA on Saturday at around 2am.
According to the Health ministry, he was screened at the airport for the disease. His body temperature, as well as his travel history, was collected to capture which part of Angola he was coming from.
Sources at the ministry said the patient was ill but could walk.
The man was rushed to a private hospital in Eastleigh by relatives after his condition worsened.
In a statement, the health ministry said the man had been “unwell for four days” prior to his travelling back into the country.
“He had fever, joint pains, blood stained stool and vomitus on the day of arrival,” said Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu.
The CS said a medic at the clinic suspected the patient had haemorrhagic fever and he was transferred to KNH’s isolation ward where he developed renal and liver failure.
As a result of the death, an alert was Wednesday sent out to all counties, hospitals and points of entry, including airports, for thorough screening to identify and isolate other possible cases.
The move by Dr Mailu will mainly target travellers from areas known to be prone to the disease.
The screening has already identified six travellers who were denied entry to Kenya because they had not been vaccinated, said Dr Mailu.
He said the government would also undertake yellow fever awareness campaigns.
Existing temporary holding rooms at JKIA will be used to hold high risk travellers while those found to have the fever will be transferred to isolation wards at KNH. The hospital has an eight-bed isolation unit.
“The ministry will work with county governments to establish or ensure there are isolation facilities in county hospitals,” said Dr Mailu.
In addition, the ministry activated the National Surveillance and Response Team to review and monitor the evolution of the outbreak internationally and advise on further interventions.
The CS added: “We wish to request all Kenyans to remain vigilant, look out for unusual illnesses and report suspect cases to the nearest health facility for immediate investigation.”
Kenyans can also call the Disease Surveillance Unit on 0729 471414 or 0732 353535.
HOW IT IS TRANSMITTED
Yellow fever is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected human or non-humans such as monkeys and can then transmit it to other primates.
Dr Rosemary Sang, the acting director of the Centre for Virus Research, at the Kenya Medical Research Institute said Kenya was unlikely to have a yellow fever outbreak as the disease was not contagious and could not be transmitted from one person to another.
“The infected mosquitoes can only exist in an ongoing outbreak zone such as Angola, but also not all areas in the country. What we have is an imported case and not one that originated from here,” said Dr Sang.
Kenya recorded a yellow fever outbreak 24 years ago, but being a transit country, there is risk of an imported case from travellers, said Dr Mailu.
Once vaccinated, a person develops a lifelong immunity against the virus