Pneumonia ‘drops’ dramatically in Kenya during Covid 19

Cases of diagnosed pneumonia dropped by 22 percent in Kenya last year as Covid 19 pandemic progressed.

A survey by the Ministry of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on health care services utilization last year shows a general decline.

The survey also involving Maseno University and Emory University, US, says outpatient hospital visits dropped by about 23 percent and admissions by 10 per cent.

On specific diseases, pneumonia recorded the highest drop of diagnosed cases at 22 per cent. “We found a decline in overall respiratory tract infections 38.2 per cent and pneumonia at 22·per cent diagnosed during the Covid 19 lockdown,” says the survey.

Pneumonia is the number on killer disease in Kenya, claiming about 21,000 lives annually and the largest cause of child hospitalizations in the country

There was also a recorded five per cent drop in malaria diagnosis during the period. However the team says the drop in malaria cases should not be attributed to the ongoing vaccination.

“This decline is unlikely to be driven by the nascent impact of the malaria vaccine rollout that started in eight counties in western Kenya in 2019,” says the study.

The lower respiratory tract infections and malaria results, the report suggest may be driven in part by fears in care-seeking by patients with fever or airway infections.

Such patients may have feared of being quarantined or isolated in line with government policies for patients with such symptoms.

While only a five percent drop in malaria diagnoses was recorded, there was a big decline, 39 percent, in the distribution of bed nets.

A preprint of the study overseen by Kenya’s Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman (pictured) was posted on The Lancet on 26th August 2021 for review.

There was also a decline in facility births and lower utilization of antenatal care.

But not all services went down with a significant uptake of family planning and Caesarean sections.

“We found an increase in family planning visits at 11·per cent and in Caesarean sections at about 6 per cent,” says the study.

The increase in family planning visits, the report says could reflect uncertainty around increased childcare burdens with school closures, negative income effects from job losses, and uncertainty about future health.

The higher C-section a rate, the report warns may be partially driven by delayed care seeking by women in labor leading to more aggressive interventions when they present to delivery units.

Despite loud noises by HIV think tanks through NGOs, politicians and media, the report did not establish any serious disruption of related services and or commodities.

About Gatonye Gathura 126 Articles
Science Journalist

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