Health experts investigate 'mystery' illness in Kakamega

Shina village

Residents of Shina village in Kakamega County on Tuesday. At least six men have died from a mysterious disease in Shina village in just a month, locals and county officials say.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

The Ministry of Health on Tuesday sent a team to Shina village in Kakamega East sub-county to carry out further investigations into the deaths of six people who died a month ago.

The team was accompanied by county public health teams who have been involved in earlier investigations after the deaths were reported in Isukha West ward.

Kakamega executive for Health Services Collins Matemba said samples obtained from the patients and sent to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) laboratory in Kisumu had tested negative for cutaneous anthrax.

 The six people succumbed to a mysterious illness after exhibiting symptoms which included itchy sores on their limps which developed into wounds after they complained of fever and aches

 "The team from the Ministry of Health arrived on Monday and has gone to the village to carry out further investigations into the deaths in Shina village," said Dr Matemba.

 Nine patients from the village are admitted at the Shibwe and Iguhu sub county hospitals.

 The County director of public health Dr William Olaka had last week led the team that visited the village to try and unravel the cause of the deaths which have left villagers in shock and panic.

 Fresh graves dotted homes as the families were struggling to come to terms with the death of their loved ones.

 Several other villagers were nursing wounds on their limps after developing symptoms of the condition.

 Villagers who were taken ill were reported to have sought treatment from traditional medicine men in the village, believing they had been bewitched.

 As the villagers were reeling from the shock of the deaths, last week Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya directed the public health team to visit the village to assess the situation and report back to him.

 Villagers who were taken by the disease are reported to have drunk changaa, an illicit traditional brew which was stolen from a drinking den belonging to a woman in the village.

 They then started developing symptoms which included skin lesions and swellings on their limps.

 Those hospitalized are reported to be in stable condition.

 Mr Edwin Owali Mavia, aged 32 said he started developing a swelling on his back before his condition got worse.

 "At night, my whole body gets itchy and swollen. I have developed wounds on my back and I don't know what to do," said Mr Mavia.

 Patrick Chumwani, 35, said two weeks ago said he noticed some blisters had developed on his fingers. They got painful and his condition worsened. He then decided to seek medical attention at a nearby health facility.

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