HEALTH ALERT

Kala-azar kills 32 in northern counties

The most affected counties are Marsabit, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera

In Summary

• Kala-azar symptoms include enlargement of the spleen, loss of weight and anaemia

• The female sandfly transmits the disease between dusk and dawn

Health CS Sicily Kariuki during the launch of the malaria vaccine in Homa Bay last week.
WAR ON DISEASES: Health CS Sicily Kariuki during the launch of the malaria vaccine in Homa Bay last week.
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Thirty-two people have died of Kala-azar in northern Kenya this year, a Health ministry report says.

The disease outbreak situation report by the Disease Surveillance and Epidemic Response Unit says Marsabit, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera counties had 2,582 cases.  

Kala-azar is spread through a bite from a female sandfly, which lives mainly in anti-hills and mud houses.

The sandfly feeds on animals and humans for blood, which it needs for developing eggs. It bites between dusk and dawn.

Its symptoms include enlargement of the spleen, loss of weight and sometimes anaemia.

The report, released on September 16 shows that Marsabit had 587 cases, 19  of them became fatal. Laisamis, Moyale, Nort Horr and Saku were the most affected sub-counties.

They had 1,902, 27, 89 and 48 cases reported respectively.

In Garissa County, the outbreak was in Lagdera sub-county. There were 32 cases, one of them fatal, according to the report.

One person died out of six cases in Mandera county. The outbreak was in Kutulo and Mandera East sub-county. 

Wajir had 477 cases in Wajir West, Tarbaj, Eldas, Wajir East and Wajir South.

The World Health Organisation lists kala-azar as one of the 17 neglected tropical diseases.

The diseases affect more than one billion people and cost developing economies billions of dollars annually.

Globally, 300,000 new cases are reported annually with 40,000 resulting in deaths.

An estimated 90 per cent of the cases are reported in Bangladesh, Kenya, India, Nepal, Brazil, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Last year, the ministry revised the guidelines for health workers in the diagnosis and management of kala-azar.

“The county health departments are undertaking enhanced surveillance activities, detection, confirmation and management of cases and community awareness and sensitisation,” the report states.

Clinical trials have shown that the use of paromomycin (an antimicrobial used to treat parasitic infections) together with sodium stibogluconate (sold generally as Pentostam) reduces death and other complications during treatment and reduces the treatment time from 30 to 17 days.

However, little has been gained in the eradication of the disease as many of those treated go back to their homes where the sand-flies are and are likely to catch the disease again.

People in the affected regions say kala-azar is a curse due to ignorance.