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Nakuru County expands health tests for truck drivers

With all efforts directed at containing Covid-19, many other common ailments could get lost in the thick of things, leading to an upsurge.
However, a non-governmental organization in Nakuru has partnered with the county government to set up screening for a number of other common infections.
North Star Alliance International has partnered with the devolved unit to step up testing and management of malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/Aids and sexually transmitted infections among truck drivers.
Diagnosis and treatment of the diseases is being offered alongside testing for Covid-19 of the truck drivers at the Maai Mahiu Health Centre and Salgaa parking bay.
North Star Alliance is a non-profit, public-private partnership entity that has established a network of roadside health clinics at major truck stopovers and border crossings in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi.
It also operates in Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Gambia.
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui’s administration has on the other hand, stepped up screening of truckers at major stop overs including Salgaa, Mau Summit, Kikopey, Gilgil and Naivasha areas which have been mapped as Covid 19-high risk zones.
However, keen on ensuring that other health challenges are not forgotten, the county administration is also keeping a close eye on management and treatment of all other infectious and non-communicable diseases.
“As we focus our manpower and resources in the fight against coronavirus, we are not neglecting vulnerable citizens including truckers who can be a conduit of spreading many communicable diseases to their wives, girlfriends across the national and international borders,” noted the governor in an earlier interview with KNA.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that, with all focus directed at containing Covid-19, more people are likely to die from the indirect effects of the pandemic including possible neglect in managing non communicable diseases and rise in infectious illness.
A laboratory technologist attached to North Star Alliance at the Maai Mahiu Health Centre Stephen Gichini said the partnership was also offering the drivers counseling and information designed to motivate behavioral change, while also informing them about practical and immediate measures they can take to stay safe and slow the spread of the diseases.
“We are committed to protecting the well-being of long distance drivers and the communities they interact with. Like several other infectious diseases, Covid-19 has been associated with migratory labour patterns and transportation routes, a situation that renders truck drivers a higher risk group,” he further added.
He said the organization is also partnering with other County governments to offer similar services at truck stop overs at Kipevu and Jomvu in Mombasa, Emali and Mlolongo in Makueni and Machakos respectively, Burnt-Forest within Uasin Gishu and Malaba and Katuna in Busia and Kilifi respectively.
Gichini said medical personnel at the center collect between 30 to 35 samples per day which are forwarded to Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and various public testing agencies where they are processed and results issued within 48 hours.
A truck driver, Edward Karanja working for Kanini Haraka Hauliers said the Mai-Mahiu Testing center was offering a variety of services compared to many other centers operating along Mombasa, Nairobi and Nakuru route.
He expressed fears that people suffering from other flu related ailments may refuse to seek medical care for fear of being tested for Covid-19 which may turn out positive, thus the mandatory quarantine. However, he encouraged his peers to undertake the tests alongside others being offered to avoid exposing others.
“Testing for Covid-19 is mandatory but I urge my fellow truckers to also request for TB testing should they experience any of the probable symptoms,” he said.
Testing, diagnosis and management of pre-existing conditions such as TB, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) will have a resultant effect of minimizing the impact of Covid-19 as we soldier on in the battle against the new flu, added Karanja.
He also called on truck drivers to protect communities they interact with along their routes against Covid-19 by observing Ministry of Health guidelines crafted to curb further spread of the diseases such as social distancing, washing hands regularly and wearing face masks.
“Truck drivers play an integral role in the economies of East African countries. We supply raw materials to industries, we replenish food supplies, ensure sustained flow of pharmaceuticals, farm machinery and building materials just to list a few.
Nevertheless we face a higher risk of contracting and spreading viruses, like Covid-19 and HIV/Aids and other diseases including TB and malaria because we are a highly mobile vulnerable group that traverses the country and often spending night stops in temporary locations,” he said.
Gichini said after testing each truck driver is offered a 500ml sanitizer, a washable face mask and soap.
By Jane Ngugi/Jane Ndiritu

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