CORONAVIRUS

Anybody from China with flu symptoms told to report to major hospital

The precaution is meant to prevent the spread of the pneumonia-like virus

In Summary

• All coronavirus patients develop pneumonia and most have a fever, while others cough and have trouble breathing.

• The virus has killed 132 people so far and left 6,057 others sick across the world.

There are now 132 deaths linked to the virus.
There are now 132 deaths linked to the virus.

The government has ordered everybody who arrived from China in the past two weeks to present themselves at any leading hospital for observation if they develop flu symptoms. 

The precaution is to prevent the spread of the pneumonia-like coronavirus that, according to the World Health Organisation, had by Wednesday killed 132 people and left 6,057 others sick across the world. 

"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," Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said. 

All coronavirus patients develop pneumonia and most have a fever. Others cough and have trouble breathing.

The call for screening came as Kenyans waited for the laboratory results of the student quarantined at the Kenyatta National Hospital on Tuesday. The student had arrived from China.

Kariuki said samples of sputum were sent to Kenya Medical Research Institute laboratories in Nairobi and to South Africa. 

"The suspected case remains in the isolation facility at KNH while investigations and laboratory tests are undertaken," she said. 

The tests were expected to take longer because Kenya, like most other countries, lacks the specific rapid diagnostic kits that can quickly test for the virus. 

In China, the tests are taking two to three days.

The US Centre for Disease Control yesterday speculated that there could be active cases on the continent that have not been detected.

John Nkengasong, the director of the Centre for Disease Control in Africa, said a  suspected case in Côte d’Ivoire, was likely pneumonia.

He called for caution, saying there will be a lot of suspected cases because the virus presents symptoms similar to the common cold.

“There will continue to be rumours around suspected cases because the initial symptoms that people manifest will be very similar to those of the common cold,” Nkengasong said.

Separately, WHO's manager for emergency response Michel Yao exclusively told the Star there's no treatment for coronavirus and there is no vaccine yet.

"We have not declared it a public health emergency yet. We're reviewing the situation with health ministries and other relevant stakeholders and will advise accordingly," Dr Yao said.

Yesterday, Kenyan students in Wuhan city continued to express displeasure with how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responding to their pleas for help.

"We need evacuation from Wuhan. The embassy has said we should be avoided,"  Antony Waigwa said.

 Ambassador Sarah Serem said Kenya would not risk importing infection by bringing back citizens from China.

Serem told Citizen TV on Wednesday that it's better if Kenyans in China are monitored and protected as China finds a way to annihilate the highly infectious virus.

"I don't think Kenya is ready to deal with the virus. The government of China is in a better position to deal with the virus and bringing Kenyans in China back to Kenya will expose the rest to the danger of infection," she said.

The ambassador said Kenyan students are in constant communication with the embassy and are safe.

Separately, Kenya Airways said it would not suspend its flights to China but would observe the situation.

“We are monitoring this on a very regular basis, as frequently as every one hour. We will make a decision in collaboration with the government on if and when we should suspend the flight,” acting chief executive officer Allan Kilavuka said.

Outside China, the virus has spread to several countries and cities –  US (five cases), Hong Kong (eight), Thailand (14), Taiwan (eight), Australia (five), Macau (seven), Singapore (seven), Japan (seven), South Korea (four), Malaysia (seven),  France (four), Canada (two), Vietnam (two), Cambodia (one), Germany (four), Sri Lanka (one) and Nepal (one), according to the Johns Hopkins University virus dashboard.

The coronavirus can survive or stay suspended in the air for hours. Like influenza, coronavirus spreads through both direct and indirect contact.

Indirect contact results when an infected person coughs or sneezes, spreading coronavirus droplets on nearby surfaces, including knobs, bedrails and smartphones.

The coronavirus outbreak came to prominence on January 9 following the death of a 61-year old man who had exhibited symptoms similar to the common cold and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Its symptoms include breathing complications, fever, kidney failure, pneumonia, severe coughing and impaired liver and kidney function.