Emerging diseases, not malaria, major cause of child fevers in western Kenya

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By Gatonye Gathura

New evidence shows almost half of children being treated for malaria in western Kenya are actually suffering from a group of the so called emerging diseases.

Tested samples from 370 children attending Webuye District Hospital, Bungoma, Kenya, showed although almost all were treated for malaria, half of them were suffering from a group of previously non significant diseases.

These illnesses; Q fever, scrub typhus and rickettsial diseases are transmitted from domestic and wild animals to humans by arthropods. Arthropods include creatures such as fleas, sand flies, lice, ticks, and mites.

A team of Kenya and American researchers, led by Dr Alice N. Maina of the US, Naval Medical Research Center tested samples from the Webuye children between November 2011 and December 2012 for these diseases.

“Virtually all Q fever and rickettsia-infected patients received a diagnosis of malaria by the treating clinician,” write the researchers in the US Centres for Disease Control and Preventions weekly Dispatch Volume 22, Number 5—May 2016.

The team which also included researchers from Moi University, Kenya and Duke University, US, found the rickettsia disease to affect girls more than boys but did not explain why.

Scrub typhus, the team says was previously thought to be restricted to Asia but studies have shown it to be present in mice in Africa.

The current study may have been triggered off by recent findings in western Kenya, indicating that respiratory viral infections were responsible for 41 per cent of all fevers in children, but 37.1 per cent were of unknown cause. In the same study, malaria accounted for only 5.2 per cent of fevers

Rocket Science

 

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