Have flu-like symptoms? Get tested for Covid-19

People infected by Omicron are showing flu like symptoms like stuffy nose, body ache, fever, head ache with no lost sense of smell or taste.

In Summary

•The Kenya Medical Research Institute also says there is no flu outbreak, although there are always minor surges during rainy seasons.

•“The Omicron variant multiplies faster in the upper respiratory tract and more slowly in the lungs. So it presents like the common cold. If you have flu-like or common cold symptoms please get tested for Covid,” he told The Star.

Dr. Joseph Aluoch is the president of the Pan African Thoracic Society, the professional association for lung health in Africa.
Dr. Joseph Aluoch is the president of the Pan African Thoracic Society, the professional association for lung health in Africa.
Image: ENOS TECHE.

You should get tested for Covid-19, if you have the flu-like symptoms, a respiratory diseases expert says.

Dr Joseph Aluoch says there is unlikely to be any flu outbreak in Kenya at the moment.

The Kenya Medical Research Institute also confirmed there is no outbreak, although there are always minor surges during rainy seasons.

Dr Aluoch says symptoms associated with the Covid-19 Omicron variant could mirror those that normally accompany common cold, and it could easily be mistaken for cold or even influenza.

“The Omicron variant multiplies faster in the upper respiratory tract and more slowly in the lungs. So it presents like the common cold. If you have flu-like or common cold symptoms please get tested for Covid,” he told The Star.

Dr Aluoch gave an example of an event he is helping organise in Nairobi on Saturday.

“All the guests must have Covid-19 negative test to attend. So when we asked them to have the tests, 30 per cent tested positive,” he said, indicating the Omicron variant could be spreading faster in Nairobi than previously acknowledged.

A hospital within Nairobi recently tested its workers and patients and 20 per cent turned positive, he said.

“Most of them were asymptomatic, or with very mild symptoms,” he added.

According to the World Health Organization people infected by Omicron are showing flu like symptoms like runny nose, stuffy nose, body ache, fever, head ache with no lost sense of smell or taste.

On Thursday, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the Covid-19 positivity rate countrywide is at 16.3 per cent, although it could be higher.

Dr Aluoch advised those testing to ask for PCR tests, as opposed to the rapid diagnostic tests.

“If you go to hospitals it's better to do PCR, because rapid test shows only if you have high viral load. PCR  will detect even with low viral load,” he said.

He noted Kenya does not do much virology on flu because the country does not experience the seasonal outbreaks seen in Europe, but only surges around July to August.

“We don’t have good PCR tests for flu like Covid. It’s more difficult to identify it. Covid tests are easier,” he said.

 Dr Aluoch is the president of the Kenya Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases and president of the Pan African Thoracic Society, the professional association for lung health in Africa.

Early this week, a Hong Kong study reported that Omicron spreads much faster in the human bronchi — the airways that lead to the lungs — and much more slowly in lung tissue itself.

Researchers noted Omicron replicates 70 times faster in the human bronchus than the Delta variant or original coronavirus strain but in lung tissue it is more than 10 times lower than what was seen with the original strain.

The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that Omicron was spreading in Kenya, having been detected in three travellers.