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Doctor recovering from influenza after taking care of MP Shah teen

Wednesday July 24 2019

Flu shot

A sign advertising flu shots. The health ministry has asked the public to seek medication attention in case of cold-like symptoms. PHOTO | AFP 

ELIZABETH MERAB
By ELIZABETH MERAB
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A doctor is recovering from influenza after contracting the disease while attending to a patient.

The unnamed doctor is said to have unknowingly contracted the flu and only realised he was sick when he started developing cold-like symptoms. His condition, however, has been improving.

Sources privy to the information Wednesday told the Nation that two doctors started showing symptoms a day after a teenage boy died of the disease.

The doctors had been taking care of the patient who died at MP Shah’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“We had just taken samples from the deceased to know the cause of death when the two medical officers started showing symptoms of the disease,” the source said.

One of the medic’s condition deteriorated and he ended up in isolation as his colleagues managed him.

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“He stayed in the hospital for three days and on the fourth we discharged him, but ensured that even at home he stayed in a separate room until he got better,” the source, who requested to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter added.

Wednesday, the secretary-general of the doctors trade union, Dr Ouma Oluga, called on the Health ministry to vaccinate health workers against the disease.

“This doctor may have continued to see other patients, oblivious that he had already contracted the illness. It means every other patient he saw after the infected one was exposed to the virus,” said Dr Oluga.

He further noted that cases of severe flu have been reported in multiple health facilities, where some have been confirmed to be Influenza A H3N1.

While the virus has been the predominant circulating influenza type, Dr Oluga said, “presentation this time has been severe.”

Three people are currently being treated as the Health ministry advised the public to seek medical attention in case of cold-like symptoms.

The 17-year-old boy was admitted to MP Shah Hospital last week Thursday, with flu-like symptoms, chest pain, and difficulty in breathing.

As the weather becomes cooler, cases of flu begin to rise. This is referred to as the “flu season” and is said to likely go on until October.

Typically, flu seasons that are dominated by H3N1 are more severe, particularly among at-risk groups such as older adults and younger children.

“These cases are a wake-up call for our infection control systems. We need to be alert. You can imagine the scare it caused within the hospital, with everyone running to get Tamiflu®,” noted the source

Oseltamivir, sold under the brand name Tamiflu®, is an antiviral medication used to treat and prevent influenza A and influenza B.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union secretary-general warned doctors to observe hand hygiene and wear protective masks whenever they come into contact with patients with severe respiratory symptoms.

 “We encourage all personnel at points of patient triage, if handling a patient with respiratory symptoms, to have personal protective equipment (PPE). Further, any patient suspected to have flu should wear a surgical mask,” he said.

County governments have been advised to heighten surveillance and report any cases to the Division of Disease Surveillance and Response who are undertaking contact tracing for suspected cases among contacts of the affected.

“The ministry is monitoring the stock levels of the medicine for treatment, Tamiflu®, across the country,” the government said after the centre for emergency operations flagged that stock levels were currently critically low

According to the ministry, the boy had travelled to Watamu in Kilifi County and returned to the city two weeks ago. During his stay, he interacted with 10 friends who did not contract the disease.

“On coming back to Nairobi, the index case stayed with his family of four out of whom two have fallen ill. The younger sister aged 14 years has reported having flu-like symptoms but is in a stable condition being managed as an outpatient, while the mother who is 46 years has also developed flu-like symptoms and has been admitted to Aga Khan University Hospital. Only the father is well,” the emergency operation centre manager, Dr George Kasera noted.