Press release on current disease outbreaks outside Kenya by the Director of Medical Services

Press release on current disease outbreaks outside Kenya by the Director of Medical Services

Date: 22nd October 2017,We wish to bring to the attention of the public two ongoing disease outbreaks on the continent with a potential threat to our country. These outbreaks are plague in Madagascar and more recently Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) in Uganda. However, there is no single case of either of the two diseases in the country

1. Plague outbreak in Madagascar

On 1st October 2017, WHO reported scaling up its response to an outbreak of plague in Madagascar that has spread to the capital and port towns. This current wave of outbreak has been affecting cities and other non-endemic areas in Madagascar since August 2017. The WHO report further revealed that between August and 20th October this year, a total of 849 cases and 74 deaths have been reported. At least 49 health care workers have contracted the disease in Madagascar.

According to WHO risk assessment, Kenya has been classified as at moderate risk of potential spread due to travel interconnection with Madagascar. There are over 20 weekly flights between Madagascar and Kenya. This increased air travel can facilitate the spread of the disease due to short time taken to travel between the two countries. There is also sea transport for both passengers and cargo between Madagascar and Kenya.

Plague may be transmitted to humans by either of following ways: the bite of infected fleas, direct contact with infected fluids or tissues (either human or other infected animals), and inhalation of infected respiratory droplets. Plague can be a very severe disease with a case-fatality ratio of 30% to 100% if untreated. The disease develops within one to seven days after infection and symptoms includes sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, body aches, body weakness, nausea and vomiting. If diagnosed early, the disease can be cured with antibiotics and supportive care.

2. Marburg Virus Disease outbreak in Uganda

On 20th October 2017, WHO reported an outbreak of Marburg virus disease (MVD) in Kween District of Eastern Uganda on the border with Bungoma County of Kenya. At least two people have died of MVD, one confirmed and the other probable case. About 200 people who attended a funeral of one of the dead are suspected to have been exposed to the virus.

Marburg is transmitted to humans in one or more of the following ways: –

  • Exposure to mines or caves inhabited by bats and consumption of bush meat.
  • Direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids.
  • Burial ceremonies where mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person.
  • Health care workers have been infected while treating patients through close contacts without correct infection control precautions.

On average, 50% of infected people may die from the disease but this can rise up to 80%.

3. Measures undertaken to prevent importation of the two diseases to Kenya

In order to prevent importation of these diseases into the country, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with stakeholders have undertaken the following measures: –

  • Strengthened surveillance activities in all points of entry and within Counties bordering Eastern Uganda, i.e. Busia, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and West Pokot Counties.
  • Alert notices have been sent to all health institutions and points of entry in Kenya, including private ones.
  • There is intensified active case search in Counties bordering the epicenter of the outbreak (Busia, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and West Pokot Counties).
  • Travellers and crew members of vessels from the two countries undergo screening and fill surveillance forms on arrival.
  • A traveller or crew member showing signs and symptoms of infection with either of the two diseases will be screened, investigated and isolated if necessary for further medical investigation.
  • Air crafts from Madagascar and Uganda must submit Health declaration section of GD Form.
  • Ships form Madagascar must submit Maritime Health Declaration Forms and de-ratting certificates
  • Thermo scanners, medical supplies and personal protective equipment have been pre-positioned in high risk Counties and points of entry.
  • A 12 bed isolation facility at Kenyatta National Hospital is to manage any suspected cases of the two diseases.
  • Providing information to outbound travellers and crew members on preventive measures for the two diseases as follows: –

(i)For plague –  

  1. Avoid travelling to areas with reported cases of plague
  2. Avoid flea bites
  3. Avoid handling animal carcasses
  4. Avoid direct contact of body fluids and tissues of infected persons/animals
  5. Avoid contact with suspected or patients
  6. Baggage and cargo transported in vessels shall beinspected for signs/presence of rodents and fleas and dis-infested / de-ratted accordingly
  7. All vessels shall be inspected for signs/presence of rodent and flea infestation and action taken where necessary which may include spraying and quarantine of the vessels

(ii) For Marburg Virus Disease: –

  1. Avoid travelling to affected areas
  2. Avoid close contact with wild animals
  3. Avoid contact with infection suspected cases, or use appropriate protection if necessary.
  4. Avoid contact with body fluids from affected persons
  5. Seek rapid medical attention if you develop fever headache, vomiting and possible bleeding tendencies.

In view of the above, we wish to urge members of the public to: –

  • Observe high standards of hygiene.
  • Report any cases of mysterious illnesses with signs and symptoms of either of the diseases to the nearest health worker or institution.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with water and soap.
  • Limit handshakes in public places and in the high risk Counties.
  • Liaise with relevant health authorities on how to spray houses infested with fleas and rodents.
  • Any person who has visited the Marburg high risk Counties and develops Marburg like signs and symptoms must be taken to a health facility immediately.
  • Avoid touching fluids and secretions from sick people, or use protective clothing.
  • Observe safe burial practices as advised by health workers.

Finally, I wish to assure Kenyans that the Ministry has taken adequate measures to ensure that none of the two outbreaks is introduced and spreads in the country. Further, the Government remains committed and shall remain vigilant to ensure that Kenyans are protected against any infectious diseases.


Dr. Kioko Jackson K. OGW