In a span of just two weeks, 14 children have tragically lost their lives to a rotavirus outbreak in Mombasa County, with the local government raising alarm over the situation. The county has also cautioned residents about the potential rise of water-borne diseases following recent heavy rains that have led to flooding in the region.
Mahmood Noor, an advisor to Governor Abdulswamad Nassir, confirmed the fatalities caused by rotavirus, noting that they occurred in Kisauni, Nyali, and Likoni sub-counties. Incomplete data, however, left four deaths unaccounted for.
Governor Nassir disclosed that the outbreak is believed to have originated from a nursery school in Kisauni, and that the county government is collaborating with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) to control its spread.
Three weeks ago, approximately 9,000 doses of rotavirus vaccine were dispatched to the county government, but many children born late last year missed their vaccinations, which are typically administered at six weeks of age. This shortage of the vaccine in the region has left children vulnerable to the virus.
The vaccine, given to children under five, helps prevent severe symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. However, the lack of availability in hospitals has exposed young children to the risk of contracting the virus. Medical professionals attribute the current outbreak to the unvaccinated children.
Dr. Hemed Twahir, a pediatrician at Aga Khan Hospital Mombasa, warned that the virus is spreading at an alarming rate. He emphasized the importance of hand hygiene, especially in nurseries where sanitation facilities are shared, and urged children to consistently wash their hands with soap and water to avoid infection.
Dr. Twahir cautioned that the disease can be fatal, particularly for unvaccinated infants and those who do not receive timely treatment. While there are no specific drugs for rotavirus infection, doctors can prescribe medications to address the symptoms.
Last week, Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumincha reassured Mombasa residents that the national government had sent technical assistance to help the county manage the outbreak. She highlighted the involvement of Dr. Patrick Amoth, the Director General of Health, and his team in providing technical support and ensuring the availability of rotavirus vaccines.
Secretary Nakhumincha also reported a nationwide increase in diarrheal cases and urged schools to prioritize proper sanitation, hygiene, and food handling and storage practices to combat the disease.