Via allAfrica.com, an IPS report: Kenya: Stepping Up the Fight to End Cholera and Chikungunya Outbreaks in Mandera County, Kenya. Excerpt:
Mandera's double whammy, the concurrent outbreaks of cholera and chikungunya, is bringing to the fore the need for accelerated epidemic preparedness and prevention systems.
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated.
Chikungunya virus is most often spread to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. These are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue, yellow fever and zika virus. Its symptoms include high fever, joint pain, rash and headache. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection.
The twin epidemics have hit the expansive north-eastern county in Kenya, with half the population coming down with chikungunya virus infection. Since April, almost 1,103 cases of cholera has been reported in Mandera including 16 deaths, 3 being children.
For about 17 months, several areas in Kenya have reported cholera outbreaks, but the outbreaks in Mandera present special challenges in a region where one health worker serves about 2,000 people and half the population has no access to clean water.
Almost 80 per cent of the Mandera residents are down with the outbreak - which has adversely affected health care workers and the livelihoods of many vulnerable urban poor, especially women and children.
Even the Mandera county Governor Ali Roba became a victim of chikungunya and spoke of the "excruciating and intolerable pain in his joints" for nearly a week.
The current cholera outbreak, in Mandera has been worsened by the immobilized health work force due to chikungunya outbreak and hence slowing response efforts from the local capacities.
While chikungunya infection is often self-limiting and rarely fatal, the cholera outbreak is the more worrying, given the limited access to clean water and health facilities and a poor communication infrastructure that complicates efforts for tracing, diagnosis and isolation of cases.
There is a realistic fear that the outbreaks could spread to other regions, for instance in the coastal region if urgent action is not taken now. That would portend ill especially for the country's tourism sector that has just recently began recovering from a debilitating slump.
With half of Mandera's health workforce working at less than ideal capacity due to chikungunya infection, it is time for more hands to quickly be put on deck. The Mandera Referral Hospital is already overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of patients turning up with cholera and chikungunya symptoms.
Though the Kenya Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Switzerland have stepped up to bolster the county's health facilities to deal with the cholera outbreak, and support the Ministry of Health with response measures, gaps abound.