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Kenya mounts swine flu alert

Tuesday April 28 2009

People wear facial masks to protect themselves against outbreak of swine flu as they line up in front of Mexican National Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Mexico City. Kenya Hospitals have been requested to scrutinise patients with fever symptoms. Photo/REUTERS

People wear facial masks to protect themselves against outbreak of swine flu as they line up in front of Mexican National Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Mexico City. Kenya Hospitals have been requested to scrutinise patients with fever symptoms. Photo/REUTERS 

By MIKE MWANIKI

Surveillance for the swine flu was on Tuesday stepped up as Kenya health authorities started screening travellers at Jomo Kenyatta and Moi international airports.

Public Health and Sanitation minister Beth Mugo said travellers from Mexico, where the virus has killed more than 100 people, and those from Texas, California and New York were being screened as new cases appear in the United States.

Highly contagious

Hospitals have been requested to scrutinise patients with fever symptoms, Mrs Mugo said at a press conference at Afya House in Nairobi.

“I would like to reassure Kenyans that all the necessary measures to detect and respond appropriately if the disease spreads to the country have been put in place,” she said.
The highly contagious flu is spread through sneezing, coughing and touching surfaces contaminated by the virus.

On Tuesday, Mrs Mugo reassured Kenyans that the virus could not be caught by eating pork or pork products. “Following the outbreak of the new swine flu virus, we have re-activated the existing surveillance system set up for bird flu at 26 sites countrywide,” she said.

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Adequate drugs

She said her ministry had also taken other measures like issuing directives to health workers on the symptoms and action to take in the event of suspected swine flu. She also said that the country had adequate drugs to treat confirmed cases.

The minister said several hotlines had been established which people could call for more information on the disease. These include 0722 331 548 or 020 204 0542. People can also e-mail [email protected] or [email protected]

The new flu strain, a mixture of various swine, bird and human viruses, poses the biggest risk of a large-scale pandemic since avian flu broke out in 1997, killing several hundred people.