Why Covid-19 deaths at home are worrying

Monday May 18 2020

Health Director-General Patrick Amoth speaks during a press briefing on coronavirus at Afya House, Nairobi, on May 14, 2020. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The Health ministry has sounded the alarm over the rising number of Covid-19 deaths in homes.

On Saturday, Kenya recorded five deaths, bringing the national tally of fatalities to 50. Fifteen of the deaths were recorded in villages and estates.

Their caregivers could be infected and spreading the disease, acting health Director-General Patrick Amoth said Sunday, adding that age appears to be a strong indicator of who is likely to die of Covid-19.

“In the earlier days, the youth were the ones getting infected, hence the high number of recoveries. However, for the elderly with underlying conditions, the recovery path is minimal,” Dr Amoth said.

He said once a person gets to the age of 65, their ability to fight off pathogens declines.

According to statistics released by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe early this month, people aged between 30 and 59 and the elderly have been the hardest hit by Covid-19.


As at May 2, when Kenya had reported only 21 deaths, 10 of the deaths had occurred among patients aged above 60.

“This is one reason why we have been emphasising that the elderly stay indoors because once they get sick, they need more attention and their chances of recovering are minimal,” Dr Amoth told the Nation.


A recent study published in the Nature Journal revealed that, in bad cases, there is a severe deficiency in certain classes of immune cells that fight off infections.

The cells are less active in the elderly, suggesting that an age-related decline in immune function may put them at risk. Dr Amoth linked the high rate of deaths at home to people’s refusal to be tested.

“People do not want to go to the hospital to get tested. They prefer remaining at home hence the increase in the number of deaths at home,” he said

With 32, Mombasa County is leading in the number of deaths. Old Town is on lockdown to help flatten the infection curve.

Dr Menza Chiringa, from Jocham Hospital, said the cases are soaring in Mombasa because the residents continue to disregard guidelines on social distancing, wearing of face masks and staying at home.

Some of the families whose kin succumbed to Covid-19 at home in Mombasa are yet to come to terms with the deaths.

“My father has been suffering from high blood pressure; I don’t know how or where he got coronavirus. We are still traumatised. We were tested but none of us was found positive,” said a kin.


Statistics from the county health department show that majority of those who succumbed are the elderly with underlying health conditions.

Lifestyle diseases, such as high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes and obesity, are rampant in Mombasa.

“Most of the deaths are of the aged people with underlying conditions. Mombasa is one of the hotspots and that is why we have restricted movement in and out of Old Town and Eastleigh in Nairobi,” Dr Aman said.

He discouraged residents from keeping their sick at home. Surveillance teams are monitoring hotspot areas as contact tracing and mass testing is intensified, especially in Mvita, where a majority of cases have been reported.

Dr Aman urged the residents to seek medical help and not to fear getting tested.

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