By Gatonye Gathura
Two years on, the Ministry of Health has confirmed a disease outbreak at Weston Hotel, Nairobi in 2017 was indeed cholera.
In a report published on Friday (19th July 2019) the ministry says it has confirmed cholera which may have affected more than 200 people.
“Laboratory tests confirmed Vibrio cholerae, serotype Ogawa,” says the study published in the Journal of Public Health.
In the study by experts on laboratory science and spread of diseases at the Ministry of Health had followed up 249 out of 456 who had attended a scientific conference at the hotel on June 2017.
Out of these, the report shows 137 or 55 percent had been infected with cholera, suggesting more than half of the total could have been affected.
The team traced the source of the infections to a meal of chicken served for lunch on Tuesday 20th June 2017.
The belated report puts to rest the cause of illnesses at the high-end hotel, an event that had shaken upper-class Nairobi residents and visitors.
The Ministry of Health had then refuted the cause of the diarrheal infections at Weston to have been caused by cholera.
The then Cabinet Secretary for Health, Dr Cleopa Mailu had attributed the cause of illness to food poisoning.
“The signs and symptoms do not meet the classical case definition for cholera,” said Dr Mailu.
The then Director of Medical Services, Dr Jackson Kioko, had been more robust in defending Weston Hotel against a cholera outbreak.
Exonerating Weston, Dr Kioko said he suspected that one of the delegates may have eaten in outlets with questionable hygiene then imported the infection back to the hotel.
“We are trying to find out from those who are already sick where they may have had their dinners in the last few days,” he said.
But even as the ministry puts such a strong team to address the issue of cholera at Weston Hotel, thousands of Kenyans continue to be ravaged by the disease with little input from the government.
Between January and last week, a total of 3,036 cases of suspected cholera, including 20 deaths have been reported in the country. Of these suspected cases only 129 have been laboratory-confirmed so far.
An earlier study in the most cholera prone counties in Kenya since 2014 and which involved Dr Kioko found the Kenya ill-prepared to stop the disease.
The survey reported high awareness of cholera among Kenyans but inadequate access to safe water and appropriate sanitation facilities.
In addition, the report said health care workers had inadequate knowledge of critical signs of severe dehydration and appropriate use of antibiotics for cholera, while health facilities often lacked adequate lifesaving supplies, particularly intravenous fluids.
June 2017: Conference held by Ministry of Health at Weston Hotel
456: local and foreign conference attendees
249: Attendees reached by current study
137 or 55%: of study respondents were infected
95% of infected attendees had eaten chicken for lunch on Tuesday 20th June 2017
3,036 cases of cholera and 20 deaths reported countrywide since January
Link to the study: https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdz078