The incident at Weston Hotel a week ago was no laughing matter. Take it from me – the gods spared Nairobians from an embarrassing end – death by cholera.
It is not a stretch to say that our medics were spared the irony of people walking, rather crawling on the streets with uncontrolled painless diarrhoea picked from a conference whose agenda was health!
It must have been shocking for doctors at high-end hospitals to diagnose cholera among their colleagues, some of them very senior consultants whom they have never seen cough. Now they were presenting with diarrhoea. Cholera!
To make matters worse, top Government officials insisted that this was not cholera, but all those examined, more than twenty of them had false-positive tests. That confirmation was needed before cholera is declared. Fair enough, but what happened after confirmation? One week later, we are still wondering whether there was a cholera outbreak or not.
This foot shuffling is inexcusable. Cholera gives one no time to think and once a doctor suspects that there is a cholera outbreak, his or her whole being, ethics, academia, ancestral spirits or whatever it is that drives them causes them to treat and manage it on the spot.
Clinical suspicion alone is enough to develop goose bumps because cholera is an unforgiving disease that causes death within hours. What is needed is fluids, and more fluids. Rehydrate your patient.
Cholera is seen as a disease that infects only the poor, but ailments do not discriminate and that outbreak proved that no one is immune.
The Government told us that they had taken samples from all the food handlers, water and food items from the four-star hotel. The responsible thing was to bring back the results at the soonest time possible and confirm or dispel any fears.
Additionally, the public should have been cautioned either way, as the results were being waited for. Hiding the truth in this day and age is shameful.
By now, a declaration could have been made to close down eateries operating without food licenses and valid food handlers’ certificates.
Sadly, residents are yet to be told which eateries these are so that they can avoid them or what to do in case of suspicion, and to remain vigilant or on high alert. Silence does little to inspire confidence, and this is where the gods must have pitied Nairobians, and spared the bug from running amok and infecting all on its path.
Luckily, those who had been quarantined and treated in the hospitals, or underwent dialysis to reverse the acute kidney injury that the severe diarrhoea caused are well on their way home to recuperate and tell tales of their ordeal.
At a time when a country is not at war, cholera outbreaks should not occur, but they have been on the rise this year.
One of the high-end hospitals confirmed eight cases of cholera over the last month alone. Those were not related to weddings or Weston Hotel but were isolated incidences which should have acted as a warning that Nairobians are at risk.
How many more ordinary Kenyans could have suffered or died from cholera in 2017, and the Government has not in its wisdom disclosed such information?
Who slept on the job? Looking for rogue eateries and food handlers should be a continuous exercise and should not be done only when there is an outbreak. What does this say about the state of primary health care in Kenya?
Are we in a position to build state-of-the-art specialist centres for ailments such as cancer yet we cannot control cholera or own up to the fact that it still exists in a city in the 21st century? We cannot be asking a Government we fund questions whose answers we were owed much earlier.
Instead of answering us, the Government instead chose to hide under the shameless veil of politics and politicised science and took us for a ride!
Dr Mercy Korir is medical doctor and the health correspondent for KTN News.