Kemri investigates unknown killer disease in Nakuru

Monday April 11 2016

Kenya Medical Research Institute Head Office in Nairobi. I was saddened that 39 children in Nakuru and Baringo counties may have died from suspected influenza-like illness. If tests being undertaken by Kemri confirm it, there will be cause for alarm. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kenya Medical Research Institute Head Office in Nairobi. I was saddened that 39 children in Nakuru and Baringo counties may have died from suspected influenza-like illness. If tests being undertaken by Kemri confirm it, there will be cause for alarm. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ERIC MATARA
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Nakuru Senator James Mungai has called on the national government to urgently send more medical experts to fight a mysterious disease that has killed 23 infants in Nakuru and Baringo counties.

In a press statement, Mr Mungai said the counties had been overwhelmed and that the intervention of the Ministry of Health was necessary.

“Health is a devolved function but it seems the county governments have been overwhelmed and therefore requires external assistance,” said Mr Mungai. “This will be crucial to enable medics to address the 215 confirmed cases exhibiting similar symptoms.”

The 23 minors have died in four weeks from a disease earlier suspected to be viral pneumonia.

The most affected are babies aged between one day and 11 months. The main symptoms are high fever, weakness, sweating and coughing.

However, tests done by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) turned negative for viral pneumonia, causing more confusion and anxiety among medics and parents.

“Kemri has confirmed that this is not viral pneumonia as we suspected and we have embarked on more tests,” said Nakuru Health Executive Kabii Mungai.

He added that officers from Kemri had moved to the county to further investigate the cases.

“The most affected areas are in Nakuru County, although we have received a few cases from the neighbouring Baringo,” he said.

According to Mr Mungai, medics are treating the disease as a “sudden acute respiratory illness” whose cause is unknown.

“We have so far lost 23 infants to this disease and have 215 confirmed cases as we seek more information about this new outbreak,” said Dr Mungai.

He called on parents whose babies have high fever and coughs to seek immediate medical attention.

This came as the number of confirmed cases in the past two weeks rose  from 177 to 215.

Among areas identified as most affected are Bahati and Engashura in Nakuru North with 43 cases, many of whom were treated at Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital (PGH), said Hospital Superintendent in Charge John Murima.

Six minors died in Nakuru East and Nakuru West, while two deaths were reported in Elburgon.

Two other minors who had been referred from Baringo County died at PGH a week ago.

“Unfortunately, two of the three cases from the neighbouring Baringo passed away while undergoing treatment at the PGH,” said Mr Murima, adding that the hospital was receiving a high number of referrals from other places in the county.