Kenyans fleeing Nairobi putting elderly people in the village at risk of coronavirus
News about the number of cases of coronavirus increasing in the country has sent panic waves with many Kenyans living in Nairobi fleeing en masse.
However, the people fleeing the capital heading upcountry could unknowingly be carrying the new coronavirus disease that has spread globally with them, and in turn, putting those living in the village, especially the elderly, at risk.
Days after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a raft of directives to contain the new Covid-19 caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2 in the country, the Central Business District (CBD) turned into a ghost town as many stayed away from offices and businesses.
Latest data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (AfricaCDC) The highly infectious disease has so far infected 266,073 people and killed 11,184 others globally.
About 1,198 cases have been confirmed in 41 African countries where 37 deaths have been recorded. Soon after news about the first case was reported, there was heavy outbound traffic along the Thika Superhighway. On a normal morning, Thika Road is characterised by heavy inbound traffic as most of the commuters head to work.
As Kenyans learn to adjust to the new global norm by regularly washing hands with soap and water and learning how to properly cough and sneeze, experts have called on people to maintain a one-meter distance between each other, something known as ‘social distancing’ in order to reduce their chances of catching and spreading the virus.
But with people travelling upcountry in fear of a shortage of provisions in the city, health experts are now worried that they could be putting those living in rural areas, mostly elderly people, at risk of infection. This is because while majority of people living in African countries, Kenya’s population is mainly young below 40, will contract the virus and have very mild symptoms the danger is that most are likely to transfer the infection to the older generation residing in the villages who are more at risk and highly vulnerable to the virus.
“It’s interesting that that’s what’s happening here. The main risk I see is that if we have community transmission which we may already be having then people are carrying the virus to other parts of the country rather than just having it in Nairobi yet, upcountry has alot of senior citizens who are also the most vulnerable,” said Prof Reena Shah, the head of infectious diseases at Aga Khan University Hospital.
In a study carried out in China where the disease started, the new disease was found to be spread by people who with Covid-19 who did not get diagnosed, likely because they did not feel very sick, were the source of at least two-thirds of documented in the early days of the outbreak.
On Wednesday Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says cases of coronavirus being reported in Africa may not be true representation because testing is not robust, and as result, infected people may be slipping through the cracks.
“Africa should wake up. My continent should wake up,” said Dr Tedros.
Although elderly people are the most at risk of developing severe disease, experts have warned that young, healthy people are also dying from the respiratory infection. The elderly or those with underlying conditions, and have weakened immune systems have been found to be the most vulnerable.
According to Bruce Aylward, an epidemiologist and World Health Organization’s assistant director-general who assessed the pandemic in China, people as young as 30 were dying from the life-threatening virus after they developed complications from the disease.
More than 200,000 cases of Covid-19 have been reported to WHO, and more than 8000 people have lost their lives. More than 80 per cent of all cases are from two regions – the Western Pacific and Europe, the World Health Organisation said Wednesday. In Kenya, seven people were infected with the virus as the government said that suspected cases are rising, and many others who may have come into contact with an infected person may have been missed.
The reason why such people may be missed is because they have no idea that they have come into contact with someone who tested positive.
Respiratory viruses — like the novel coronavirus, the flu, and the common cold — can be spread via our hands. If someone is sick, a hand can touch some mucus and viral particles will stick to the hand. If someone is well, hands act like sticky traps for viruses. We can pick up droplets that contain the virus, and they will stay on our hands, and perhaps enter our bodies if we touch our hands to our faces.
One of the most consistent Covid-19 messages from health officials has been the importance of good personal hygiene. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands with soap and water as the top way to clean our hands.
“But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help,” the CDC says.
Alcohol-based disinfectants are also effective, but soap is a highly efficient way of killing the virus when it’s on your skin. Viruses can be active outside the body for hours, even days.
In fact, researchers have established that Covid-19 can survive on surfaces (like doorknobs and handles, tabletops, kitchen counters, desks, rails among others) for between six and 24 hours. Disinfectants, liquids, wipes, gels, and creams containing alcohol have found to be useful at getting rid of them – but they are not quite as good as normal soap.