Six million people at risk of intestinal worms, bilharzia infections

worms, worm infections, intestinal worms, tapeworms, roundworms
The intestinal worms are categorised as roundworms, whipworms and hookworms.
Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  •  From a study conducted by the ministry in all 155 wards in Vihiga, Kakamega, Trans Nzoia and Bungoma, 140 wards had reported cases of intestinal worms while at least 40 wards had over 40 per cent cases of bilharzia. 
  • Experts said many residents in the region aren’t keen on their personal hygiene. 

More than six million people from western region are at risk of intestinal worms and bilharzia infections, according to the Ministry of Health in collaboration with Amref Health Africa 

From a study conducted by the ministry in all 155 wards in Vihiga, Kakamega, Trans Nzoia and Bungoma, 140 wards had reported cases of intestinal worms while at least 40 wards had over 40 per cent cases of bilharzia. 

The experts said many residents in the region aren’t keen on their personal hygiene. 

The ministry and Amref have now combined efforts to sensitise school going children and the communities in general on the importance of good personal hygiene. 

Florence Wakesho, a parasitologist from the division of vector-borne and neglected tropical diseases, called on households to ensure that they wash their hands frequently to protect themselves from germs and infections. 

She urged schools to have hand washing points in every corner. 

According to Wycliff Omondi, the head of division, vector-borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Health ministry, Kenya is seeking to upscale mapping of the regions with high prevalence of NTDs so as to lower transmission. “We have evidence that over 27 counties have a high prevalence of intestinal worms". 

He noted that the disease burden from low levels of sanitation and hygiene is high in Nyanza and Western regions.

Moses Wambusi, a public health officer at Bungoma County Referral hospital, attributed the rise of the diseases to cultural beliefs, citing locals’ beliefs that the diseases are linked to witchcraft, which impedes their health seeking behaviour. 

He also called on the residents to have pit latrines in their homes.Amref Health Africa officer Solomon Mwaniki said they have partnered with the Health ministry to help sensitise the community to combat spreading diseases in the Nyanza/ Western region.

At least 1.5million Bungoma residents and 600,000 from Vihiga have received treatment.

The World Health Organization recommends that cases should be below two per cent and we are working towards achieving this.

The intestinal worms are categorised as roundworms, whipworms and hookworms and are transmissible among both children and adults.

Although the National Health Insurance Fund does not cover NTDs, Mr Omondi said the Universal Health Coverage is looking at shouldering patients’ burden.

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