Prof. Omu Anzala and Dr. Moses Masika both from KAVI Institute of Clinical Research (KAVI-ICR) have outlined helpful measures that can be undertaken to reduce the risk of corona virus outbreak in Kenya.
According to Prof. Anzala there is no vaccine for the virus that has so far killed more than 3000 people globally.
“There is no vaccine for corona virus, the nearest we are drug development,” Prof. Anzala says.
80% of corona virus patients recover without any medical intervention and those who go to hospital require supportive treatment that is treating the pain, the cough and breathing problem.
He says there have been two other outbreaks of corona virus; the first one was in 2003 and was called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) the second one was in 2013. It was known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).
“Drugs were being developed but when the epidemic went down they stopped. They have taken over very quickly following the outbreak of corona virus. What we are likely to see is the development of antiviral drugs against corona virus but the vaccine will come later,” says Prof. Anzala.
The professor says those going for flu shots thinking it is corona virus vaccine are being duped.
“Flu is caused by influenza, a different virus from corona virus. Flu shot will protect you against flu and not corona virus,” Prof. Anzala adds.
On the other hand, Dr. Masika says medics are not able to quickly confirm a corona virus case just by observing a patient unless laboratory tests are done.
“One of the challenges with corona virus is the fact that it presents itself in non-distinctive symptoms. It is very similar to other illnesses that cause flu or infections in the respiratory tract,”Dr. Masika says.
The best way to tell if it is corona or not is one, the risk that is the person in an area where there is an outbreak, and two is the tests done in the lab.
“Even if a person is in a risky area you cannot say it is corona virus unless you have a lab confirmation,”Dr. Masika insists.
He advices Kenyans to watch out for corona virus symptoms like fever, tiredness, coughing and have travelled to areas where cases of corona virus have been reported and confirmed to call the nearest hospital.
He says going to a hospital without calling will be exposing other patients to the virus.
“Call first, say the symptoms and request for checkup and you will be guided on what to do without exposing anyone to the virus.
The experts say self quarantine is practical but somehow difficult. They say the whole idea of self quarantine is to cut the cycle of transmission, however, it is difficult in the sense that if it is in a family then one will need his/her own room, toilet, utensils.
Prof. Anzala says taxi drivers are at a high risk of contracting the virus because they carry people coming in at the airport and are move them around.
He advices them to always have sanitizers in their cars and constantly ensure that their hands are clean.
“Ensure that you clean your car, including the surfaces on a regular basis and always wear a mask that should be changed frequently,” says Prof. Anzala.
Kenya’s entry points are being taken care of in that anyone coming into the country is being checked thereby keeping the risk low, however additional measures like availability of water and soap for regular washing of hands in addition to provision of sanitizers will lower the risk further.
“We want to reduce that risk even lower just in case there could be somebody with that infection and has not shown the symptoms. These precautions should be taken until we stop the transmission of the virus. Regular washing of hands and avoiding to touch the face reduces the risk of infection,” the expert says.
Only few cases have been reported in Africa following the outbreak of corona virus in December, 2019. This has left many wondering whether Africans are resistant to the virus after or not, the experts say that is yet to be confirmed but the best thing is to take precaution.
The experts say healthcare providers need to be more informed about the virus and more isolation centers be set up in all regions in the country and not only in Nairobi.
About research at the University of Nairobi, Prof. Anzala says a lot of research is being done at KAVI-ICR to understand the environment because these infections are coming from the environment.
“We just need to do more to ensure we have surveillance to ensure we have a high index of suspicion to know that maybe these are the areas an infection from the wild could easily spill over into the humans and ensuring that we have epidemic preparedness and stop depending on donors. There are things we can do for ourselves, the knowledge is there, and we only need to put in enough resources to ensure we have surveillance in place,” the professor says.
To sum it up, Prof. Anzala says corona virus is not a death sentence and compares it to flu which he says kills more people that corona virus.