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COMPARISON BY NUMBERS

Compared to other killer diseases in Kenya, Covid-19 still a dot

Health Ministry however says that it is too early to compare Covid-19 with other diseases.

In Summary

• After two weeks, the same minister started encouraging Kenyans to visit hospitals for check-ups of other diseases.

• But how does this virus compare to Kenya's top 10 killer diseases?

Amina Kalifa, an Eastliegh resident being tested for coronavirus using a nosal swab that is inserted inside her nose to get a membrane sample at the at Beafra Medical Center on May 15, 2020.
Amina Kalifa, an Eastliegh resident being tested for coronavirus using a nosal swab that is inserted inside her nose to get a membrane sample at the at Beafra Medical Center on May 15, 2020.
Image: MERCY MUMO

A global Pandemic has created friction between Kenya's hospitals and its citizens leaving authorities to encourage the use of these facilities.

Ideally, with the coronavirus pandemic killing thousands globally and 50 in Kenya, it is proper that people would visit the hospitals or rather go for check-ups.

However, the World Health Organisation notes that when you feel like you have a high fever, running nose, sneezing coughing and difficulties in breathing, you should not go to a hospital.

 
 
 
 

This is to ensure that in case you are infected, you do not transmit the disease to any patient at the hospital.

But with this, Kenyans have shied away from visiting hospitals for any other illness that they might have for the fear that they might contract the novel coronavirus.

Also, the new normal of washing hands, social distancing among others has made the number of hygienic diseases such as diarrhoea to decline.

"The number of people going for treatment for diarrhoea and other illnesses related to poor hygiene has gone down as sanitisation and cleanliness have increased in the country," Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said during one of his pressers.

After two weeks, the CS started encouraging Kenyans to visit hospitals for check-ups of other diseases.

But how does this virus compare to Kenya's other top killer diseases?

THE NUMBERS

 
 
 
 

So far there are 4,894,278 coronavirus cases globally, 320,189 deaths with 1,909,236 recoveries.

As at Monday, Africa recorded 86,702 cases, 2,785 deaths and 33,527 recoveries.

Out of this, Kenya recorded 912 coronavirus cases. This is out of the 44,851 samples that have been tested since March 13.

A special oral swab insterted in VTM liquid after being used to test someone for coronavirus as he cuts the straw of the nosal swab at Beafra Medical Center on May 15,2020/ MERCY MUMO
A special oral swab insterted in VTM liquid after being used to test someone for coronavirus as he cuts the straw of the nosal swab at Beafra Medical Center on May 15,2020/ MERCY MUMO

The country's fatalities remain at 50 with 336 being the number of patients who have recovered from the disease.

The average daily death from Covid-19 would thus be put at about one person per day from the data so far.

Going by the daily average of 0.75, Covid-19 deaths would be 374 at the end of 12 months.

But this virus has not killed many as compared to some of the top killer diseases Kenya has witnessed in the past.

Some of the top killer diseases include; HIV and AIDS, Diarrhoeal diseases, Influenza and Pneumonia, Stroke, Tuberculosis, Malaria, Liver diseases, cervical cancer, asthma, diabetes among others.

According to the World Health Organisation, Diarrhoeal diseases deaths in Kenya reached 33,224 or 11.80 per cent of total deaths in 2017.

This was the highest cause of deaths in Kenya that year giving an average of 91 deaths per day from Diarrhoeal diseases.

Influenza and Pneumonia Deaths in Kenya were 26,947 while HIV/AIDS fatalities were 29,911.

Stroke deaths in Kenya reached 11,976 of total deaths. Coronary heart disease deaths in Kenya reached 7,771 or 2.76 per cent of total deaths.

According to the WHO, Malaria killed 11,922 people in Kenya in 2017 which translates to an average of 32 deaths per day.

According to the Economic Survey 2020, the total disease incidences reported increased by 17.3 per cent to 87.8 million in 2019.

"Diseases of the respiratory system and malaria collectively continued to be the leading causes of outpatient disease incidences, accounting for 39.9 per cent of total disease incidences," the report said.

NOT PROPER TO COMPARE

With these statistics, one would assume that Coronavirus is the least killer disease in Kenya as per the statistics that are in our possession.

However, the Ministry of Health Director-General Patrick Amoth tells the Star that it is not proper to compare coronavirus to any other disease.

"This is a new disease, that is why it is called the novel coronavirus. So you cannot compare Asthma, HIV and coronavirus," he told the Star on Tuesday.

"This is a new disease that is highly infectious. You cannot claim that when you sit next to a person who has Asthma, you will get it, so it is a totally different disease."

Covid-19 is estimated to have a crude mortality ratio (the number of reported deaths divided by the reported cases) of between 3 per cent and 4 per cent.

This has been shown to be different in some countries. Discrepancies may arise because cases haven’t been reported or due to a lack of testing.

For Kenya, this implies that – in the worst-case scenario – 40 people may die for every 1,000 confirmed cases if no intervention is put in place.

The government has been doing mass testing but its people are not actively seeking these services.

Doctor Amoth said since the government started encouraging people to visit hospitals for other illnesses, they have continued to record low numbers.

"The numbers are still low and we continue to appeal to Kenyans to visit the hospitals for any disease apart from coronavirus. The only problem is people are afraid that they will be infected," he added.

CHALLENGES

The Ministry of Health is responsible for gathering data on COVID-19 cases.

The Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response teams collect surveillance and laboratory data based on possible cases and contact tracing.

The National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus is mandated with overall coordination. But during pandemics, there are some challenges in putting together all the data.

In our case, the actual number of infected patients may differ from the number of reported cases. This might be due to weaker surveillance systems, poor contact tracing and active case detection and slow testing.

There’s also the additional challenge, in the case of this pandemic, of people who don’t show symptoms.

Almost half of the people who are infected are asymptomatic. Meaning that they test positive but do not show any signs whatsoever.

As daily numbers of confirmed cases rise, MoH says there is evidence of asymptomatic cases, sparking fear of unwitting community transmission.