KEMRI denies influenza outbreak in Kenya

KEMRI denies influenza outbreak in Kenya

The Kenya Medical and Research Institute (KEMRI) has turned down reports that there is an influenza outbreak in the country.

Media reports have been making rounds claiming that there is an outbreak of the flu due to a number of cases that have been witnessed in hospitals.

“Indeed, this information attributed to our research is not only incorrect but also taken out of context and has only succeeded in causing undue panic to members of the public,” read the statement in part.

 “The alleged media reports indicated that the ‘outbreak’ is based on a total of the 36 samples tested over a three-month period from September to November 2021 during our usual surveillance exercise in the country,” it added.

According to KEMRI, the 36 samples only had four that tested positive for flu which is an insignificant finding to warrant concerns of an influenza outbreak.

“On average, the four positive tests within a three-month period may equate to nearly one positive case per month which does not reach the threshold of an influenza outbreak”. The statement read.

Past outbreaks, Kemri, said have involved a higher percentage of cases being positive. In one incident, 150 samples testing positive from a sample of 250; and in another case 14 out of 20 samples tested positive.

 “We know from our long-term studies in Kenya that influenza viruses circulate all year, so you can expect a certain number of people to have the flu at any given time which is not considered an outbreak,” the statement read.

KEMRI clarified that a single case of an Ebola virus or poliovirus infection is always considered an outbreak due to the severity of these infections or the virus’s eradication status.

But this is not the case for influenza virus infections, especially in the tropics.

In the month of December, many people in the country have been experiencing symptoms typically associated with the flu such as fever, coughing, and running nose but with the country experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases, these symptoms could also hint at the disease and should not be ignored.

This is according to Infectious Disease expert Dr. Loice Ombajo, who argues that it is difficult to determine flu symptoms from those of COVID-19 since the illnesses are both classified as upper respiratory tract infections.

“These are general features of upper respiratory tract information. It starts from the nose to the back of the throat, down the throat, and to the upper part of the airways,” said Ombajo during an interview with Citizen TV.

KEMRI has urged members of the public not to panic about the reported ‘outbreak’ of influenza but should instead exercise higher standards of personal hygiene –  including hand washing, not crowding, eating healthy, and visiting their local health provider as preventive measures.

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Lawrence Baraza is a prolific writer with competencies in Digital Media, Print, and Broadcast. Baraza is also a Communication Practitioner currently spearheading Digital content on Metropol TV's Digital Desk.

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