There is an influenza outbreak in Nakuru and Baringo counties, and parents whose babies have a cough and fever should immediately visit the nearest health facility. According to the ministry of health, the first case was reported on 24th march, and since then 39 death cases among children below 5 years have been reported. The babies have a fever and a cough that does not respond to antibiotic medication, followed by convulsion, coma and death.
When they get a fever, people watch and delay seeking medical attention and then the child becomes dehydrated, slips into a coma, and this is a bit too late.
Influenza is a viral infection. Dr. Mailu stressed that it is not a rare disease but should not be confused for common cold. The both infections are caused by a virus but influenza is caused by type A and B viruses, which causes pneumonia like infections.
As at now, 296 cases have been reported in the two counties. The disease is spread when droplets from the mouth of an infected person are released during coughing, sneezing or talking to an uninfected person.
Signs and Symptoms of Influenza
- Sudden onset of high fever
- Muscle aches
- Headache and severe sickness
- Non- productive cough
- Sore throat
The infection affects mainly the nose, throat, bronchi, and occasionally the lungs. In very young babies, it can lead to pneumonia and death.
Blood samples and nasopharyngeal samples have been taken and sent to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) National Influenza Sentinel laboratory in Nairobi for further testing to determine the cause,” said Dr. Mailu.
He also added that all county health workers have been alerted to detect new cases promptly.
KEMRI Laboratory Tests Results
Results from Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) released on Monday indicated that the children who visited hospitals with flu-like symptoms could have been infected with influenza. The county hospitals from the respective counties sent samples to the research center after the first test turned negative for pneumonia, which was suspected.
According to Dr. Rosemary Sang, the acting director of the center for Virus Research at KEMRI, test for influenza turned positive, but they are waiting for confirmatory results from other two research institutes.
Initial tests from the main influenza laboratory showed the samples tested positive for influenza. We usually like to compare the results before issuing a conclusive report. Therefore we have to wait for the confirmation results.”
Initially, 23 children below one year of age died of what was suspected to be viral pneumonia. Some of the children had diarrhea and vomiting besides the classic flu symptoms, and laboratory results by the hospitals indicated it was likely to be viral pneumonia. However, the first samples sent to KEMRI ruled out pneumonia. This prompted second tests on samples from post- mortem performed on the dead children.
KEMRI had confirmed that this is not pneumonia as we suspected and we have embarked on more tests,” said Nakuru County Health Executive Kabii Mungai.
Mr. Mungai also said that tow isolation wards have been set up at Nakuru Provincial General Hospital, and medics put on high alert to detect symptoms and handle cases on influenza.