Twelve new cases of cholera have been reported in Nairobi as the outbreak continues to give national and county government health officials sleepless nights.
Six of the latest victims have been admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and the others at a newly opened centre at Mukuru Kwa Reuben slums.
The six are in addition to the 67 people who had been admitted to KNH earlier, according to the Ministry of Health.
And it emerged yesterday that Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi was ordered closed after its staff tested positive for cholera.
Nairobi health executive Bernard Muiya said a number of employees had cholera and it was not as a result of outside catering.
“Several workers at the hotel tested positive for cholera and that is why we ordered it closed down,” he said.
Close to 400 cases of cholera have so far been reported in Nairobi.
Governor Evans Kidero also ordered the closure of an educational centre in Mukuru kwa Rueben slums which was said to have been hard-hit by the outbreak.
This was after sewage filled the school compound after pipes burst. The situation has been worsened by unlicensed food vendors and an acute shortage of water that has hit many parts of the capital.
While the food safety department is a devolved function, under the office of public health in counties, the national government has had to step in after its senior officials were affected.
“The reason the Ministry of Health has joined the war against cholera is because the disease has hit us. It has yet to make sense to us because we do not expect high-end hotels to be hit by the disease,” said a top official from Afya House.
Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu has blamed the outbreak of cholera on food handlers and water shortage.
“Food handlers must be re-examined within the next 21 days and this is not negotiable,” Dr Mailu said.
The county government, which is expected to handle food inspection and licensing of vendors, says it does not have the capacity.
The county has to take samples to other laboratories for testing as it facility at City Hall Annex lacks that capacity.
“We have had to outsource laboratory services to test samples because there is a major backlog at our facility,” said an officer at City Hall who did not wish to be named.
Afya House is also helping the county government to test some of the samples as officials rush to beat the epidemic.
“The Ministry of Health, together with the Public Health Laboratory, are supporting the county in microbiological testing of food,” said the Deputy Director of Public Health at the ministry, James Mwitari.
Mailu noted that shortage of water was playing a major role in the spread of the disease, adding that a task force would be established to look into ways of stabilising supply.
“When people start getting water from bowsers, carts, and other containers, then there is the risk of contamination. The disease spreads through water meaning, once a central water source is contaminated, everyone who relies on it is likely to get the disease,” said Mailu.
The Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company has claimed that it loses up to 200,000 cubic metres of water to cartels and burst pipes, leading to the massive shortage of the commodity in the city.
In the case of Jacaranda Hotel, the sales manager, Liz Tapawa, claimed that the hotel’s kitchens and food handling areas had been inspected on Monday and declared safe.
She said public health officials said they were satisfied with the hotel’s sanitation and that there was no cause for alarm.