24 Jun

Many Kenyans to experience coughs and fever, WHO advises Covid-19 tests.

Many Kenyans are expected to experience symptoms that could easily be mistaken for Covid-19 between now and August.

Experts say as temperatures plunge, infection of the upper respiratory tract will rise. The temperatures are expected to gradually sink below the average for this season, with some days being "extremely cold", says the meteorological department.

Met director Stella Aura predicted an increase in respiratory infection as Kenyans huddle together indoors for warmth. Some viruses are also known to be more stable in cold weather.

"In areas such as Nairobi, the highlands east of the Rift Valley, the central Rift Valley and parts of the highlands west of the Rift Valley, cases of respiratory diseases like asthma, pneumonia, flu and common colds are likely to increase," she said in a June-August forecast.

Aura advised Kenyans to follow advice from the Ministry of Health.

Upper respiratory tract infections are the leading causes of hospital visits in Kenya, according to the 2019 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics report.

The World Health Organization says their symptoms may be mistaken for Covid-19.

"Covid-19 and influenza viruses have a similar disease presentation," WHO says.

Symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia or breathing difficulties.

"These symptoms are similar to the flu or the common cold, which are a lot more common than Covid-19. This is why testing is required to confirm if someone has Covid-19," WHO, Unicef and the International Federation of the Red Cross say in their joint publication, 'Key Messages and Actions for Covid-19 Prevention and Control in Schools'.

Seasonal flu in Kenya peaks in July and tails off by the end of August, but the surges never overwhelm hospitals and the healthcare system.

According to the acting director general for health, Patrick Amoth, Covid-19 cases in Kenya will peak in August.

This overlap of Covid-19 and influenza has epidemiologists and some policymakers concerned.

However, the behavioural changes people have already adopted to flatten the curve of Covid-19 — such as social distancing, hand washing, and mask-wearing — could lessen the impact of the two.

Aura advises Kenyans to follow Ministry of Health directives because the current weather is favourable to some non-respiratory diseases as well.

"Vector-borne diseases such as malaria and other diseases like cholera are likely to increase in the Lake Victoria Basin region as well as parts of the Highlands west due to the conducive temperatures that favour their spread," she says in a seasonal forecast.

Aura says the weather experienced this week — cool and cloudy conditions accompanied by light rains — will prevail in the Central highlands and Nairobi area the entire month.

"Temperatures in this region are expected to be near-average to below average during the month of June," she says.

She advises Kenyans to dress warm and avoid lighting Jikos in poorly ventilated houses.

Source: The Star