KENYA – Kenya has reported an outbreak of Yellow Fever (YF) in the country after three patients died from the disease in Isiolo County since the first case was detected on 12th January 2022.

Yellow fever is a viral infection spread by a particular type of mosquito and the virus incubates in the body for three to six days.

The most common mild symptoms in the initial stages are fever, muscle pain with prominent backache, headache, loss of appetite, and nausea or vomiting while in extreme situations high fever returns and several body systems are affected usually the liver and the kidneys.

The outbreak in Kenya has seen 15 patients presenting with fever, jaundice, muscle pain and joint pain with the youngest being 11 years and the oldest being 65 years, according to the Ministry of Health.

Acting Director-General for Health Patrick Amoth said 15 people are suspected to have the disease but only three cases have been confirmed from Merti and Garbatulla sub-counties of Isiolo County.

Out of the six samples analyzed at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), three turned positive through serology (Immunoglobulin M) and Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests,” noted Amoth.

Patrick Amoth has put the entire country on high alert and urged the high-risk counties of Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Meru, Samburu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot and Turkana to be more wary.

The ministry announced that the national government and partners are already mobilizing resources to support response activities including Yellow Fever vaccination.

Although there is no known specific anti-viral for yellow fever, the disease is preventable through an effective vaccine usually offered once in a lifetime at the cost of KES 2000 (US$18) in limited places across the country.

The Ministry of Health plans to conduct Yellow Fever vaccination in Isiolo and other high- risk counties including Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Meru, Samburu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Turkana, Tana River and Mandera.

The ministry will also deploy a rapid response team to Isiolo and neighboring counties to establish the magnitude and extent of the Yellow Fever outbreak.

In addition, the response team will help to determine at-risk populations, conduct a risk assessment, initiate risk communication and community engagement activities as well as implement integrated vector control measures.

The last indigenous cases of Yellow Fever reported in Kenya occurred from mid-1992 through March 1993 in the south Kerio Valley but the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to place Kenya on its watchlist because of the extremely low Yellow Fever vaccination rate.

During routine Yellow Fever vaccination programs in 2020, WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund estimated 44 per cent vaccination coverage in the African region which was much lower than the 80 per cent threshold required to confer herd immunity against Yellow Fever.

Previously, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) warned that Yellow Fever could return because of the abundance of the mosquito varieties that transmits it.

Shillah Simiyu, an infectious disease scientist at ICIPE, said if the mosquito varieties are infected with the virus, they will easily transmit the disease to many people.

Although Aedes Africanus which was implicated in Kenya’s last outbreak in 1992 only accounted for 0.10 per cent of the collection, she urged that there was need to intensify disease surveillance and vector control strategies in the affected areas.

She further warned that Kenya is potentially at risk of Yellow Fever re-emergence given the recent recurrent YF outbreaks in the neighboring countries of Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia with the possibility of cross-border spillover.

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