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Anxiety looms as fear of disease outbreak grips residents

Residents in Mt Elgon Sub County of Bungoma County are now living in fear of a Hepatitis B outbreak after one death and several infections were reported.

This comes just a few days after Edna Khisa a young woman from Kamuneru-Mt. Elgon Sub County in Bungoma County died of the disease.

The deceased was treated in four health facilities including Kamuneru Dispensary, Mt. Elgon Sub County Hospital, ICFEM Dreamland Hospital and Bungoma level 5 Hospital.

Speaking at Kamuneru Dispensary, Gladys Kirong’, the deceased mother said that Edna suffered from an unknown disease for a long time before the doctor confirmed it to be Hepatitis B at the time of her death.

Kirong’ added that five members of her family have since been diagnosed with the same disease after Edna’s death.

She also said that the family only knew that the disease was infectious after their loved one’s death and therefore all of them were exposed to risk.

Kirong’ noted with sadness that the family is now isolated because the community fears infection if they come in contact with them.

Roselyn Chepkwemoi, whose husband is among the five people diagnosed with the disease said that no vaccination has been given to prevent infection to other family members.

She adds that her husband is yet to receive any treatment for the disease apart from oral medication administered at Mt. Elgon Sub County Hospital to reduce the effects of the disease.

Chepkwemoi notes that she lives in fear of infection together with her two children who stay in the same house with her infected husband.

“My biggest worry is staying in the same house with my infected husband together with my two children because we are the ones taking care of him in his illness,” she said.

Chepkwemoi called upon the County Government of Bungoma to intervene and provide treatment to the infected persons.

She also urged the County administration to provide vaccines in health centres for the community which is now living in fear to an extent that they do not even shake hands.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.

The virus is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids.

This is because Hepatitis B is a viral liver infection transmitted through contact with body fluids such as blood, sweat, saliva, semen, open sores or during childbirth from infected mother to child.

The symptoms for the disease include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, belly pain and jaundice where one’s skin or eyes turn yellow and pee turns brown or orange.

World Health Organisation estimates that in 2015, 257 million people were living with chronic hepatitis B infection (defined as hepatitis B surface antigen positive).

In 2015, hepatitis B resulted in an estimated 887 000 deaths, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (i.e. primary liver cancer).

As of 2016, 27 million people (10.5% of all people estimated to be living with hepatitis B) were aware of their infection, while 4.5 million (16.7%) of the people diagnosed were on treatment.

Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines that are safe, available and effective.

Efforts to reach Mt. Elgon Sub County Medical Superintendent Edward Simiyu and other medical practitioners for confirmation of the threat or comment were futile.

On the other hand, the county government has remained silent on the issue, despite county diseases surveillances team visiting the health facility.

By Douglas Mudambo and Sylvia Nyongesa

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