Friday, September 18, 2009

Water Shortages in Kenya Lead to Disease Outbreaks

There have been reports of polio, measles and cholera outbreaks in northen Kenya as a result of water shortage caused by drought and an increase in the number of Somali refugees in the east. There has been a slight increase in polio and measles cases. Since February, 18 polio cases have been reported in Turkana and it is believed that the virus was imported from Sudan due to rampant cross-border motility. 18 cases are significant because before the first reported case, Kenya had lasted reported a polio case over 20 years ago. And in a neighboring refugee camp, three measles cases have been reported. In another refugee camp, 62 cases of measles have been reported and as a result, a nationwide vaccination campaign is going to begin September 19. There has also been an outbreak of cholera. So far 600 cholera cases have been reported in Turkana. Cholera, like botulism, is an infectious gastroenteritis caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholera, which produce a cholera toxin. It is transmitted through eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the bacteria from other cholera patients. SO far, thirteen people have died but that is only counting those deaths that have been reported. The concern is that the residents of a northern Kenyan town called Turkana are drinking contaminated water from a nearby lake. Among other reasons, the water is partly contaminated because the town has low latrine cover, leading to the improper disposal of waste.
As unimportant as this might seem to some of you, it shows the obstacles that the current measles and polio eradication campaigns are experiencing. Whether it is due to natural disasters such as drought or floods or human induced disasters such as wars, it is causing unexpected setbacks. I don’t think Lemaat listed Kenya as one of the three countries remaining with polio, in which case there are now four countries and the number might continue to rise as a result of the movement of refugees and the occurrence of natural disasters.

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