By Gatonye Gathura
More than 200 people have been diagnosed with Q fever in Garissa and Wajir with suspicions that the poorly known disease to health workers could be widely spread in Northeastern Kenya.
In a report, by among others the Kenya Medical Research Institute published on Friday, researches say evidence shows this to be a major health problem in the area.
“Our study, the first such shows Q fever as a serious public health problem in Northeastern Kenya,” says the study also involving the International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya, Jena University Hospital, Germany, University of Vienna, Austria, and University of Liverpool, UK.
The team had tested 1067 patients presenting with acute fever at Garissa Provincial Hospital and Wajir District Hospital in a six month period. Of these 204 were found to be infected with the bacteria Coxiella burnetii which causes Q fever.
Q fever was not clinically suspected by the treating clinicians in any of these patients, instead the working diagnosis were mainly presumptive typhoid fever, malaria, pneumonia or acute respiratory infections, the researchers wrote in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases.
“Our findings strongly suggest that patients with Q fever were likely to leave hospital without the specific treatment for the disease.”
The team says these were only cases they were able to pick from those who presented at hospitals and suspect there could be many more among the nomadic communities out there.
Q fever is caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii with cattle, sheep and goats being the main reservoirs.
Humans are infected if they inhale contaminated aerosols, consume contaminated unpasteurized dairy products, direct contact with contaminated milk, urine, feces, or semen of infected animals, and tick bites
“We found higher odds of infection in individuals who reported regular occupational or domestic contact with goats, cattle and those involved in regular slaughter of animals.”
The team has also developed and tested a simple clinical diagnostic system which can be used by health workers in these resource poor areas to make initial diagnosis of Q fever.
Mandera County, in the same region is currently fighting a cholera and chikungunya outbreaks