Beware of what you eat, Murang'a officials caution locals amidst cholera outbreak

Murang'a locals have been urged to be cautious of what they eat outside their homes amidst an outbreak of cholera in Kiambu.

Photo credit: File

Murang'a County officials on Saturday urged residents to be cautious in eateries amidst an outbreak of cholera in neighbouring counties.

"This also applies to kachumbari sold by hawkers. Do not eat fruits before you thoroughly wash them using clean water. Even greens from groceries careful," a statement by the Water, Environment and Sanitation department stated on Saturday.

The department's chief executive Ms Mary Magochi said, "we have been advised by the public health department to be very vigilant since cholera is already in neighbouring Kiambu County".

Ms Magochi said, "the Public health department has now cautioned us to refrain from consuming uncooked foodstuffs unless we are confident about sourcing and safety employed".

She said fruit and vegetable suppliers risk consumers' health by selling harvests with unexpired poison residues from sprays meant for pests and diseases.

 "Mostly, those engaging in crop thefts are the most risky in our markets. Brokers and wholesale buyers can help us seal this window of risk. It is from these markets where items to make kachumbari emanate from," she said.

Cholera is an acute enteric infection caused by the ingestion of bacterium Vibrio cholerae present in contaminated water or food and is primarily linked to insufficient access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

Ms Magochi said water and sanitation companies will also be brought on board.

"We want to ascertain that water for use in these institutions is safe. Sewerage handling disposal and drainage. We are especially at risk since the rains have increased sanitation risk," she said.
County Deputy Director of Medical Services Dr Stephen Ngugi said the county has since activated disease outbreak management teams at all levels.

He said that Cholera is always considered a potentially serious infectious disease and can cause high morbidity and mortality. 

"It has the potential to spread rapidly, depending on the exposure frequency, population exposed and the context," he said.

“Those activities include field investigations, enhanced surveillance, contact tracing, laboratory testing, case management, risk communication, community engagement and environmental sanitation to prevent further spread of the disease should it be detected,” Dr Ngigi added.

 He said that Health Act 2017 clause 17 lays foundation to order county directors of health to issue cholera alerts in their jurisdictions.

"This is in line with the World Health Organisation's recommendation that readiness of counties and health facilities be upped to detect early and respond promptly to any cholera outbreak risk," he said.

 All health facilities will now stand directed to take special notice for students exhibiting watery diarrhea of acute onset and conduct thorough monitoring.

  “We will also spread out vigilance in the entire county through strengthening surveillance activities up to the village level and ensure 100 percent case based reporting as well as strongly invest in laboratory personnel," he added.

Ms Magochi said health services being a devolved function, the county government has since ordered for related medical supplies to be kept at standby.

"This calls for improved laboratory capacity for specimen collection and shipment if it gets to that. Our disease surveillance and response teams, that of field epidemiology and laboratory programmes remain on high alert," she said.

 Murang’a South Water and Sanitation Company’s  (Muswasco) Managing Director Ms Mary Nyaga said there is a Sh5 million to mitigate a potential crisis.

 “To that end, we are also advising our schools management teams to be very cautious on hygienic levels in the students' population and habitation as well as exercising due diligence in the interactions," she said.

  Murang'a South Deputy County Commissioner Mr Gitonga Murungi said that "it is important that the government’s departments at the grassroots complement each other in addressing the menace.

Cholera outbreaks have been reported every year with large cyclical epidemics every five to seven years.

Major challenge in dealing with cholera outbreaks has primarily been identified to be hinged in limited capacity for response and low access to safe water.

The Public Health department has been blamed for shallow penetration in enforcing food safety bylaws as well as conducting sanitary inspection in eateries and residential abodes.