Samples taken from people suspected to have monkeypox in Kenya have been ferried to Senegal for testing and further investigation, the Saturday Nation has learnt.
The Ministry of Health yesterday cleared the samples to be flown there since the country’s testing capacity is limited given the rarity of the disease.
“The test is done using an antigen and since as a country we don’t have the capacity to test, we had to take them to a country that has dealt with the outbreak before and their laboratories are certified,” said a Ministry of Health official who sought anonymity. The official said should the test turn positive, then the ministry will have to budget for the testing materials and also ensure that we are able to test for the virus.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe and principal secretary Susan Mochache did not respond to our calls and messages on the issue.
Dr Emmanuel Okunga, the acting Head of Division of Disease Surveillance at the Ministry of Health, however, said that the country has only had one suspected monkeypox case at Kenyatta Hospital – two weeks ago – which turned out negative.
“There was no further investigation because it did not fit the suspected case. We have very many diseases that appear with rashes but monkeypox is classical in its appearance with the swellings in the body. If samples have been ferried then I am not aware,” he said. He acknowledged that the country did not have the capacity to test for monkeypox
But the source confirmed to the Saturday Nation that they (Ministry of Health) had requested for a permit to expedite the transportation of the samples.
Ms Mochache last week said that the government had heightened surveillance at all entry points to prevent a monkeypox outbreak.
An alert was sent to counties to be on the lookout for any possible signs of monkeypox virus and report to the Division of Disease Surveillance and Response for action.
Ms Mochache said the country has robust surveillance systems, which were strengthened and successfully used during the Covid-19 pandemic, and that they would be used in case of monkeypox scare.
She said that there should be no cause for alarm as the Ministry of Health is alert and ready to deal with any eventualities.
“We are ready to deal with any eventuality as a county and this is why we are heightening our surveillance in all the ports of entry,” said Ms Mochache.
The virus was discovered five decades ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So far, the country has recorded about 1,238 cases and 57 deaths since January.
Most people experience symptoms including fever, chills and fatigue, which can last between two to four weeks but those with more serious disease often develop rashes on their face or hands that spread everyone on the body.
The virus is mainly transmitted when a person comes into contact with the pathogen from an animal, human, or materials contaminated. It enters the body through broken skin, even if the breakage is not visible to the naked eye.
According to the data from the World Health Organization, seven countries in Africa have reported 1,400 cases of monkeypox (1392 suspected, 44 confirmed).
The cases were reported in Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.