Cholera scare in Nairobi calls for speedy response

This would have been laughable, but it is a grave matter that calls for serious attention.

Three top government officials and at least 50 other people have been treated for cholera-related symptoms after eating food at a public event in Nairobi.

This raises the question as to whether there is a cholera outbreak in the city after similar reports in recent months.

It is not funny as cholera, a highly infectious disease, is caused by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with bacteria.

POOR SANITATION

It is more likely to occur in places with poor sanitation such as the slums or rural areas that lack safe treated water.

Indeed, past outbreaks have largely occurred in such places.

However, this latest occurrence at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, in the city centre, follows another at Weston Hotel Lang’ata where a conference attended by doctors was affected.

And before then, yet another outbreak was reported in the plush suburb of Karen, where a guest died after eating food at a wedding reception.

CONFIRMATION

Even as we wait for official confirmation from the Ministry of Health and the city county government as to whether these were, indeed, cholera cases, there are concerns about the spread of a deadly disease whose symptoms include diarrhoea and vomiting — and which appears to be transiting to more posh locations.

What is of more concern, though, is the grave possibility that a disease could be lurking out there which, if not quickly checked, can cause death in a matter of hours.

The two Cabinet secretaries and other officials infected at the KICC event are said to be out of danger, and we wish them quick recovery, but this should be a wake-up call to public health officials to up their game and protect the city from this potential killer.

INCUBATION PERIOD

A cholera outbreak at a time when our country is hosting an international event, the Under-18 World Athletics Championships, with other upcoming events later in the year, is bad news.

According to the World Health Organisation, “the extremely short incubation period — two hours to five days — enhances the potentially explosive pattern of outbreaks, as the number of cases can rise very quickly”.

So far the response from the authorities has been disappointing.

The Health ministry and the county government must come out in full force to provide assurances and rid the city of this threat. 

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