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Paralysis hits six more children

Thursday July 16 2015
By GODFREY OUNDOH
By LINET WAFULA

Angry parents ferried six more children with paralysed or weak legs to hospital as they demanded the arrest and prosecution of health workers said to have improperly injected them.

A high number of children the Nation team saw at Akichelesit Dispensary in Teso North, Busia County, could barely walk due to weak limbs.

Others had septic wounds, while others could only walk with the support of prosthetics.

This brought to 30 the number of affected children, but there are strong indications that the tally could be much higher especially in Kakapel, Teso North Sub-County.

Interviews with some of the parents returned a picture of innocent village folk who were helpless and sounded betrayed by the health system.
There was an outcry in the county following yesterday’s report by the Nation, highlighting the plight of the children.

A medical expert had said that the condition might have been caused by injury to nerves by a needle, or the use of expired drugs.

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STRANGE ILLNESS

The Ministry of Health confirmed reports of the paralysis of 18 children after they received treatment at a dispensary run by the Busia County Government. Yet, nearly 30 families claimed their children had been afflicted.

The ministry has since sent a team of medical experts made up of a paediatrician, physiotherapist, epidemiologist and a representative from the Nursing Council of Kenya to investigate the matter.

A statement signed by the Director of Medical Services, Dr Nicholas Muraguri, said a preliminary report indicates “there are 18 children with partial paralysis who had received treatment at Akichelesit Dispensary, Moding Health Centre, Angurai Health Centres and St Mary’s Chelelemu Mission in Busia County.”

Parents in Teso North Sub-County on Wednesday flocked Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong’s office after their children’s legs became weak or paralysed after the injections at the dispensary.

In a bid to avert the parents fears, Dr Muraguri’s statement said: “This is a partial paralysis and the affected children are expected to fully recover with time, following physiotherapy and other rehabilitative care at the Level 4 Health facilities in the county.”

The children will also be referred to Kenyatta National Hospital in line with recommendations of the health experts.

The statement said in the event that the Busia County cases are due to malpractice or professional negligence, the ministry will take appropriate action in lie with nursing council regulations and other public laws.”

FEET ROTTING

The children are reported to have been treated between December 2014 and June 2015.

Other than paralysis, some parents claimed the children’s feet started rotting away, an issue that was dismissed as a hereditary problem by staff at the dispensary.

The county Health executive, Dr Maurice Simiyu, said the children were undergoing daily physiotherapy. He is optimistic they will walk in two months.

“A nurse has been suspended from duty until investigation in the paralysis cases are complete,” Dr Simiyu told journalists at the Busia Referral Hospital.

According to both Dr Muraguri and Dr Simiyu, the problem could have been caused by nerve injuries that stimulate movement of the limbs.

Dr Muraguri hinted that the children may have been injected in the sciatic nerve. That is, a major nerve extending from the lower end of the spinal cord down the back of the thigh, and dividing above the knee joint.  

Injecting this nerve causes severe pain to the lower limbs and can lead to lower limb paralysis. 

County Health Executive Dr Maurice Simiyu yesterday told NTV that the nurse in charge of the dispensary had been suspended.

He said the paralysis could also be due to use of the wrong medicine because he said a spot check on the lab discovered a drug, Quinine sulphate, which is only used to treat acute malaria and not administered as a first malarial treatment.

Additional reporting by Eunice Kilonzo.

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