Yellow fever scare as man, 50, dies

File | Nation The entrance to Kemri headquarters in Nairobi. The organisation has said blood samples taken from a man who died in Baringo of suspected yellow fever show he did not have the disease, which has no cure.

What you need to know:

  • Medical official denies patient died from viral disease but says mass vaccination programme to be rolled out in the risk-prone areas

Health personnel in Baringo are on high alert after a 50-year-old man succumbed to a condition suspected to be yellow fever in Kapluk area.

Baringo North District Medical Officer of Health Felix Atisa, however, dismissed the claim that the man was killed by yellow fever.

“A blood specimen taken to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) did not reveal any traces of yellow fever, but he may have died of haemorrhagic fever,” said Dr Atisa.

Addressing the press in Kabarnet on Saturday, Dr Atisa said a team of disease surveillance officials had been deployed to the area to monitor the situation.

“We urge the locals who develop symptoms of the disease like headache, joint aches and fever to seek medical attention immediately,” said the medical officer, who added that all health facilities had been stocked with enough drugs in case of any emergency.

He said that a mass vaccination programme will soon be rolled out in the area. The last time such an exercise was carried out in Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet was in 2001.

Dr Atisa’s sentiments contradicted those of Kabarnet District Hospital Medical Superintendent Robert Pukose, who said the man died from haemorrhagic fever ‘‘which is common among patients with yellow fever’’.

Addressing the press in his office, Dr Pukose said that a post-mortem examination at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret confirmed the cause of death to be yellow fever.

Dr Pukose said investigations on another person who died on Friday last week indicated that he suffered from Hepatitis B, which co-exists with yellow fever.

Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The “yellow” in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients.

According to the World Health Organisation, there is no cure for yellow fever. Treatment aims at reducing the symptoms for the comfort of the patient. Vaccination is the most important preventive measure against the disease.

Yellow fever vaccines provide immunity for a period of 10 years. Residents of Salawa, Kapluk, Barwessa and Seretunin claimed five people have died within the last five months with yellow fever-related symptoms. But Dr Pukose dismissed the claim, saying that they were based on hearsay.

“The victim from Seretunin died after taking rat poison and a child from Salawa died from severe malaria; there is no evidence that they died from yellow fever,” said the medic.

Dr Pukose said the lower regions of Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet were particularly prone to yellow fever and appealed to the government to conduct another mass vaccination against the disease this year.

He advised the residents to ensure that bushes and empty cans around their compounds were cleared since they were conducive environments for the breeding of mosquitoes.

According to Dr Pukose, yellow fever symptoms include fever, headache, backache, joint and muscle pains and yellowness of the eyes in severe cases.

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