Deadly fever spreads Kenya panic


Jan 26, 2007

Panic has gripped parts of Kenya after 53 people died in the past week of Rift Valley Fever, with the disease spreading to densely populated areas.

Medical officials say 148 people have died since the outbreak began in December. Infections are now being confirmed in central Kenya.

The fever is common in livestock but is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes and consuming infected animal products.

The last epidemic in Kenya was reported during the El Nino floods in 1998.

The government has, however, moved to allay fears that the disease has spread to the capital, Nairobi, after a death was reported at the main Kenyatta National Hospital.

"The patient was admitted here last week from Kerugoya district hospital in central Kenya and was not from Nairobi," hospital director Jotham Micheni told reporters.

Meat fears

In addition to the deaths, 380 have been infected with the fever, said government spokesman Alfred Mutua.

Some people having been shying away from eating meat roasted in the open air (nyama choma ) - a popular delicacy among Kenyans - for fear of contracting the disease.

Buying and selling of meat has greatly decreased across the country.

Some butchers now display health certificates to show that their meat is not infected.

Very little activity has been reported at slaughter houses at Coast and North-Eastern provinces where the disease was first reported.

"We have asked the public to eat only inspected meat, avoid human-animal contact, bury or burn dead animals and observe basic hygiene," said the health ministry in a statement.

The medical officer in charge of the government surveillance team, Shahanaz Sharif, told the BBC: "The disease is under control in most of the affected areas."

The incubation period of the disease ranges between two to six days and most patients die after developing haemorrhagic