Monthly Archives: July 2011

Why viral diseases remain a major threat

KAKAMEGA      Tuesday, July 05, 2011

By Chris Mahandara.

Zoonotic illnesses, also known as zoonoses, are sicknesses caused by germs, that are passed between or shared by animals and humans.

Some examples of these diseases are avian influenza, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, rabies, cryptosporidiosis, plague and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Caused by bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi, worms, or insects, most of these diseases are very common and some are a serious problem all over the world.

Overpopulation, moving from place to place, people traveling around the world, continued expansion of people into places where nobody lives, natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and other factors all play a role in how different zoonotic diseases affect human beings, animals and the ecosystem.

Apart from killing human beings, these diseases are now a threat to the multibillion livestock industry.

In Kenya for example, the poultry industry was dealt a major blow following a fear of the outbreak of avian influenza which was reported in Juba, South Sudan.

Even though no case was reported in the country, the reality that Avian Flu had reached Africa and a neighbouring country so many Kenyans stopped eating chicken. As a result, the industry lost in excess of Sh. 3 billion between 2005 and 2006.

Since then no bird flu has been detected in wild birds or domestic poultry in Kenya but according to experts the country is still at risk.

Avian influenza is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) A viruses. These influenza A viruses occur naturally among birds.

However, avian influenza is very contagious among birds and some of these viruses can make certain domesticated bird species, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them.

Infected birds can shed influenza virus in their saliva, nasal secretions and feaces. Susceptible birds become infected when they have contact with contaminated secretions or excretions or with surfaces that are contaminated with secretions or excretions from infected birds.

Domesticated birds may become infected with avian influenza virus through direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected poultry, or through contact with surfaces (such as dirt or cages) or materials (such as water or feed) that have been contaminated with the virus.

Infection with avian influenza viruses in domestic poultry causes two main forms of disease that are distinguished by low and high extremes of virulence.

The “low pathogenic” form may go undetected and usually causes only mild symptoms (such as ruffled feathers and a drop in egg production). However, the highly pathogenic form spreads more rapidly through flocks of poultry. This form may cause disease that affects multiple internal organs and has a mortality rate that can reach 90-100% often within 48 hours.

Most cases of avian influenza infection in humans have resulted from contact with infected poultry (e.g., domesticated chicken, ducks, and turkeys) or surfaces contaminated with secretion/excretions from infected birds.

During an outbreak of avian influenza among poultry, there is a possible risk of infection for people who have contact with infected birds or surfaces that have been contaminated with secretions or excretions from infected birds.

Symptoms of avian influenza in humans have ranged from typical human influenza-like symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches to eye infections to pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases such as acute respiratory distress and other severe and life-threatening complications. The symptoms may depend on which virus caused the infection.

Highly pathogenic Influenza A (H5N1) virus is an influenza A virus that occurs mainly in birds, is highly contagious among birds, and can be deadly to them, especially domestic poultry.

H5N1 virus does not usually infect people, but infections with these viruses have occurred in humans. Most of these cases have resulted from people having direct or close contact with H5N1-infected poultry or H5N1-contaminated surfaces.

Of the few avian influenza viruses that have crossed the species barrier to infect humans, H5N1 has caused the largest number of detected cases of severe disease and death in humans.

However, it is possible that those cases in the most severely ill people are more likely to be diagnosed and reported, while milder cases are less likely to be detected and reported.

Of the human cases associated with the ongoing H5N1 outbreaks in poultry and wild birds in Asia and parts of Europe, the Near East and Africa, about 60% of those people reported infected with the virus have died.

Most cases have occurred in previously healthy children and young adults and have resulted from direct or close contact with H5N1-infected poultry or H5N1-contaminated surfaces.

In general, H5N1 virus does not infect humans easily, and if a person is infected, it is very difficult for the virus to spread to another person.

So far in Africa the avian flu has been reported in 12 countries among them Egypt, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and South Sudan.

The most recent case in Africa was in Egypt where one person died on June 22, 2011. Of the 150 cases confirmed to date in Egypt, 52 have been fatal.

Attention to Kenya has therefore come because of its position on major migratory paths. Migratory birds fly from Europe through Kenya to South Africa meaning the disease might be introduced by the birds coming from areas where bird flu outbreaks have been confirmed.

Senior Assistant Director of Veterinary Services in the Ministry of Livestock Dr. Michael Cheruyiot says avian flu is transmitted mainly by water birds and since Kenya is endowed with water bodies and river Nile which flows from Lake Victoria to Egypt where the disease is endemic, the country is at risk.

Dr. Michael Cheruyiot, who is the National Avian Influenza coordinator adds that the fact that Kenya is a business hub for East and Central Africa, a lot of people and poultry products are likely to come in and out exposing the country to risk.

Another risk factor according to Dr. Cheruyiot is our poultry production system. Out of the 31.5 million poultry in the country, 70% of them are indigenous. These birds are left to scavenge for food and sleep in the same houses with human beings or houses that are not hygienic thus predisposing them to the flu.

“Our cultural practices where chicken is a delicacy, we give it out as a gifts, use it to perform rites and also travel with the birds in our vehicles is also a predisposing factor,” says Dr. Cheruyiot.

As a result, he says the government has set up an extensive disease surveillance system to detect any disease outbreak early if it is introduced and has measures in place to contain the disease if it comes in.

The government has established a national multi-sectoral task force on avian influenza co-chaired by three directors, the Director of Public health and Sanitation, the Director of Veterinary Services and the Director of the National Disaster Operations Center.

It comprises of members from across the board among them research institutions, universities, Non Governmental Organizations, religious organizations, the disciplined forces and other stakeholders.

The task force has six sub committees, coordination and resource mobilization, laboratory and disease diagnosis, information and education, disease control, surveillance and case management each given key responsibilities in prevention and the fight against the pandemic.

Since the establishment of the task force, the government has banned the importation of poultry and poultry products at the same time increased surveillance of both domestic and wild birds so that any diseased birds can be tested.

In addition, farmers have been educated on safe ways of transporting poultry, maintaining high standards of hygiene and cooking well inspected poultry meat.

Dr. Cheruyiot adds that Poultry slaughter houses have been constructed across the country, where veterinary officers inspect the meat before it is sold to the public.

Surveillance at border entry points of Moyale, Busia, Malaba, Namanga, Lunga Lunga and Lokichogio and also all international airports and the port of Mombasa has been enhance to enforce the ban on importation of poultry products in the country.

Speaking during the western Provincial multi-sectoral emergency and disaster preparedness workshop and table top exercise in Kakamega town last week, Dr. Cheruyiot said such meetings were necessary to enhance the capacity of stakeholders to handle the pandemic whenever it occurs.

The government, he said has strengthened the laboratory diagnostic capacity at Kabete and the Kenya Medical Research Institute for quick diagnosis.

Furthermore, medicine has been procured and medical personnel have been trained to prepare them to detect, contain and manage an outbreak of the disease.

Dr. Cheruyiot confirmed that influenza surveillance in humans is ongoing and that plans for isolation of patients, treatment and referral guidelines have been finalized.

He says that the government has made the disease notifiable, adding that the media has also been trained to report objectively on the issue.

Dr. Cheruyiot asked Kenyans not to panic. He assured the public that the disease has not been reported in the country adding that stringent measures have been put in place to deal with the disease if it occurs.






New Ford Kenya reaches out for UDM ahead of the 2012 general elections

KAKAMEGA     Tuesday, July 12, 2011

By Chris Mahandara.

The New Ford Kenya Party is warming up for an alliance with the United Democratic Party (UDM) to form a strong coalition ahead of the 2012 general elections.

New Ford Kenya Party leader Mr. Soita Shitanda said the party was in talks with UDM to rally Rift Valley and Western Province behind one presidential candidate.

Shitanda said New Fork Kenya has set its eyes on the top seat with Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa expected to battle it out with others interested in the seat from other parties.

He said the party which has embarked on a massive recruitment exercise in western province was prepared and ready to battle it out with other parties come next year.

The Party has attracted Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale, Nominated MP Musikari Kombo, and former Budalangi MP Raphael Wanjala and is now courting Ford Kenya party leader and Sirisia MP Moses Wetangula.

The Luhya community, he said was tired of going for vice presidency adding that 2012 presents the community with the best chance for the top seat.

Speaking during a funeral at Butali in his Malava constituency over the weekend Shitanda who is also the Minister for Housing appealed to Eldoret North MP William Ruto of UDM’s to support Eugene Wamalwa’s bid for the top seat.

“The Kalenjin have held this seat for many years now it is only fair for them to support us this time round,” he said.

The minister called for unity among leaders from the area so as to have a strong bargaining power ahead of the general elections.

He reached out to Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi to join hands with the new outfit to bring the presidency to western.

Eldoret North MP William Ruto who also attended the funeral said UDM was keenly watching events unfolding in Western province.

The MP said UDM was ready and willing to work with New Ford Kenya. However, he said the party must first put its act together and prove that it has the potential to deliver votes.

“I look around and see you are not prepares but for UDM we are prepared and set for the elections,” he said.




Pay farmers well, sugarcane factories told


KAKAMEGA      Monday, July 12, 2011

By Chris Mahandara.

Sugar cane factories in Western province have been asked to increase the price of sugar cane from Sh. 3, 300 per tonne to Sh. 3, 800 per tonne to reflect the increased price of sugar in the market.

Ikolomani Member of Parliament (MP) Dr. Boni Khalwale said the factories were making millions out of the new prices at the expense of impoverished farmers.

The MP said as the price of sugar increases, the factories are supposed to adjust the price of sugar cane per tonne to be in tandem with the new prices.

Speaking to KNA today, the legislator urged the Kenya Sugar Board to give farmers money from the Sugar Development Levy to build bridges and roads to reduce the cost of production.

He added that some factories were using security officers to block farmers from selling sugar cane to factories that are paying well.

This, he said was illegal adding that farmers were free to sell their sugar cane to any factory that they wish.

He asked District Commissioner for Kakamega South and Kakamega North districts to take action against administration officers found engaging in the vice.