Brace for increased flu, as we fight Covid-19 pandemic, cautions experts

Health experts and meteorology officials have cautioned Kenyans to brace for increased upper respiratory tract infections triggered by the cold weather, amid the fight against coronavirus pandemic.

Cases of coronavirus are also anticipated to be on the rise, as people tend to congregate in closed places due to cold weather.

According to Kenya Meteorological Department report of June 22, 2021, in the months of June to August, an overcast condition accompanied by light drizzles, in Highlands East of the Rift Valley, including Nairobi, parts of Southeastern Lowlands and Highlands West of Rift Valley were reported.

“Occasional cool and cloudy conditions with light morning rains/drizzles are expected to continue into August, 2021 over the Highlands East of the Rift Valley including Nairobi area, parts of the Southeast lowlands, Central Rift Valley and Southern Rift valley,” reads the report in parts.

The report added that areas like Nairobi, Highlands East of the Rift Valley, Central Rift Valley and parts of the Highlands West of the Rift Valley, will report increased cases of respiratory diseases.

Among respiratory diseases expected to be on the rise include asthma, pneumonia, flu and the common cold, due to cold, cloudy and chilly conditions.

Dr Josephine Ojigo, a paediatrician at the Jaramogi Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOORTH), in Kisumu said there is an increased number of children with cough and difficulty in breathing.

Dr Ojigo said during cold weather, children tend to present with common colds, influenza, flu, breathing difficulties and those who are asthmatic tends to have their symptoms worsen.

She noted that people tend to close their rooms, and viral infections circulate within, contributing too to Covid-19 infections.

The expert added that children are also exposed to poisoning, mainly from carbon monoxide, because a number of families use jikos for cooking.

“Parents should observe disease prevention protocol like basic hygiene, avoid overcrowding, and observe ventilation,” said Ojigo, adding that children ought to be vaccinated to prevent some of these childhood diseases.

Nyandarua is among counties that record low temperatures in the country, according to the Kenya Meteorological Department. During cold weather, the county can report hailstones.

According to the health department, cold weather patterns causes a surge of upper respiratory tract infections, lower respiratory tract infections, asthmatic attacks, airway obstruction and rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition, Muraya noted that cases of Covid-19 might be on the rise, during the cold weather, as people tend to congregate at homes and social places.

“People tend to congregate together and stay within closed spaces, because of cold. This is why cases might go up, as Covid-19 is a respiratory disease too,” said Dr Muraya.

The county chief officer of health Dr Joram Muraya said cold weather is expected over the next two weeks. Some parts of the county are recording low temperatures of below 7 degrees Celsius, among them Mirangine, Njambini and Ngeta.

“Though the county has low temperatures, a peak of the cold weather is mostly recorded in July and August,” said Dr Muraya.

Data from the department of health indicates that at least 342,278 cases were reported between July 2015 to June 2016, a number that reduced to 331,796 between July 2016 and June 2017.

 Pneumonia, a disease that affects the lungs was ranked position two among the three top diseases in the county.

 As a mitigation measure, community health volunteers are educating the public on standards of housing, clothing and hospital visitation when they get sick. The county has purchased essential drugs worth Sh18 million, that have been distributed in all the 76 hospitals.

“Though we have not recorded increased hospitalization, public health officials and volunteers are educating the public on how to prevent infections,” said the official.

At a glance:

1. Counties are expected to experience cold and chilly weather patterns; temperatures may fall below 18 degrees Celsius:

Counties in Highlands East of the Rift Valley include Nairobi, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Kiambu,Meru, Embu, Tharaka  Nithi and Nairobi), Marsabit, Kajiado, Machakos, Kitui and Makueni.

 2. Counties likely to report near-average temperatures:

Counties in Northwestern Kenya namely Turkana, Samburu, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kakamega, Nandi, Vihiga, Bungoma, Kisii, Busia, Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisumu, Laikipia, Nakuru, Baringo, Narok, Bomet and Kericho.

 3. Counties with slightly warmer temperatures:

Counties along the Coastal strip among them Lamu, Tana River, Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale, Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Garissa, Kitui, Makueni, Taita Taveta and Kajiado are likely to report slightly warmer than average temperatures.

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