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Unease as flu test results awaited

Thursday July 2 2009

By COSMAS BUTUNYI and MACHARIA MWANGI

Anxiety is mounting in Alendu village in Nyando constituency as residents await the results of tests for the H1N1 virus carried out on pupils at local schools.

Public health officials have set up camp at Alendu primary and secondary schools since Tuesday, isolating suspected cases and taking samples for testing in Nairobi.

The children are being screened after they came into contact with a group of UK students, one of who has been confirmed to be suffering from the virus.

On Thursday, the exercise continued even though no results have so far been received. Sources at the Nyanza provincial public health and sanitation headquarters blamed the delay on courier service firms but the provincial director of public health and sanitation, Dr Jackson Kioko dismissed this, saying tests take up to 48 hours.

He said samples were being taken to Nairobi not only by courier but also by air and results from the first batch are expected on Friday. About 50 samples are at different stages of testing.

If any of the learners is confirmed to be suffering from the viral disease, he would be isolated and tests conducted on all people he has come into contact with.

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Isolation rooms have been set up at Aga Khan and Kenyatta National hospitals. Dr Kioko brushed aside fears that the time between testing and release of results could lead to further spreading of the disease.

Classroom block

On Wednesday, Public Health and Sanitation minister Beth Mugo reassured the pupils that there was nothing to worry about. “It is not a matter of life and death. We are just taking precautions to prevent the disease from spreading,” she said.

The head teacher of Alendu Primary School, Mr Willis Nyambua said the UK students had visited the school to help in building a classroom block they are funding through the Kenya Orphan Project, a UK charity.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation is closely monitoring the cases of H1N1 virus in Kenya and Mrs Mugo said her ministry was supplying regular updates to the organisation.

“My ministry regularly notifies WHO on the progress of any disease emergencies, including swine flu,” she said.

Taking chances

In Naivasha, where the UK students stopped over for refreshments at Delamere Shop on their way to Kisumu on Monday, surveillance has also been stepped up.

“We are not taking chances,” area Medical Officer of Health, Dr Joseph Lenai said after inspecting the food outlet.

He, however, dismissed fears of an outbreak in Naivasha, saying it was now more than seven days since the group passed through and the disease normally shows itself in three to seven days.