Expert: Kenya should be on high alert over corona virus

Prof. Omu Anzala, (center), Dr. Marianne Mureithi (left), and Laboratory Technologist Mr. Patrick Mwaura in the KAVI-ICR laboratory.

Kenya should go on high alert over the outbreak of corona virus that has so far killed more than 2,600 people globally.

Prof. Omu Anzala from KAVI-Institute of Clinical Research KAVI-ICR University of Nairobi says the spillover of the virus that emanated from Wuhan, China could emerge from anywhere.

“Let us not imagine that the virus is far away from us, it could emerge from any point in this country, therefore there is need to be highly alert,” Prof. Anzala says.

Bats are believed to be the ancestral host of all the known corona virus lineages with transmission to animals, birds and humans. Corona viruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. 

Prof. Anzala says Zoonotic Diseases Project being undertaken by KAVI-ICR had revealed a lot of details about corona virus in Kenya. The project is being carried out Taita, Kibra, and Busia research sites.

According to Prof. Anzala, preliminary results from a study carried out in Taita in 2018 indicated that corona virus prevalence in bats was 10.8%.

Initial infection targets epithelial cells lining the upper respiratory tract. Viruses then spread to the lower respiratory tract.

Corona virus is diagnosed through respiratory secretions, stool, urine, and blood. The tests can now be done locally.

Last week, the Ministry of Health (MoH) encouraged Kenyans to remain vigilant as the risk is still high. MoH advised Kenyans to continue taking precautionary measures listed below:

  • Maintain basic hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices.
  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections
  • In addition, anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as fever, coughing, difficulty in breathing and sneezing with a history of recent travel to China is advised to go to the nearest health facility for assessment and prompt management.