Health officials in Mandera County have raised alarm after 540 residents were on Wednesday reported to have been admitted in various hospitals following outbreak of Chikungunya disease.
Health chief officer Mariam Dubow Dahir said the number of patients could increase as most schools were also affected.
She said health officials have been dispatched to schools to check the number of students who have been infected.
Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.
It causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain can recur for months or years.
However, few people die from the disease.
The disease was first reported in Chukingunya, a border area between Mozambique and Tanzania.
The virus was isolated from the serum of a febrile patient from this area. In the Makonde language, where the virus was first identified in 1952, chikungunya means “to walk bent over” or “to become contorted,” a reference to the stooped posture of many sufferers.
The World Health Organisation says more than three million people have been affected by the disease in the past decade.
Mandera Health executive Ahmed Sheikh said the disease also known as Kuduushe Fever is caused by a mosquito bite.
“The disease is spread by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes that also spreads dengue fever but the symptoms differ,” said Mr Sheikh.
Clinical signs and symptoms begin abruptly with fever and malaise following an incubation period of two to four days. Fever may be high at 40º that lasts three to five days.
Polyarthralgia begins two to five days after onset of fever and commonly involves multiple joints. Joints affected include hands, wrists, ankles back and neck.
“In some cases pain may be intense and disabling leading to immobilization of the patients,” said Mr Sheikh.
A clinical officer at a private clinic in Mandera town expressed fears of the disease causing deaths if not immediately controlled.
“This is a disease that has spread from Somalia and needs a quick action of massive spraying against mosquitoes but failure will lead to another level that might lead to deaths,” said the clinical officer.
“The disease was first reported in Mandera in 2013 and it is back with different symptoms and next could be bleeding and sudden deaths,” he added.
The most common laboratory abnormalities are lymphopenia and thrombocytopenia. Liver enzymes may be elevated and acute illness could lead to arthitis.
Severe complications include respiratory failure, cardiovascular decomposition, myocarditis, acute hepatitis, renal failure and neurologic involvement.
“Most patients recover fully by taking lots of fluids and painkillers as there is no prescribed medication,” said Mr Sheikh.
WHO reports in 2014 indicated that Chikungunya had affected more than two million people in the last decade. Chikungunya infections at the time were estimated to be around 350,000.
By Manase Otsialo