Judith Kemei @PeopleDailykE
Panic has gripped various parts of Baringo County after medical officers confirmed that 12 people had succumbed to the deadly Hepatitis B infection in the last few weeks. It has also emerged that an estimated 70,000 people are infected with the worst hit areas being Marigat, Loboi, Sandai and Lake Baringo and Barwesa, Bartabwa and Cheminytany in Baringo Nouth and Baringo South respectively.
However the director of Medical Services Dr Jackson Kioko dispelled the fears, saying the disease has similar symptoms with Hepatitis B, adding that there are plans to provide vaccines for the vulnerable in Baringo.
“A national strategic plan has been developed,” he said in a short message in response to enquiries about the outbreak. Yesterday, a somber mood engulfed Maji Moto village in Mogotio sub county after a 14-year-old boy succumbed to the disease which affects the functioning of the liver. His death came as Governor Stanley Kiptis launched vaccination and awareness campaign in the area.
William Rotich, the father to the dead teenager, told the press that almost his entire family had contracted the deadly disease, saying it was taking a heavy toll on him emotionally and financially. He spoke as burial preparations for his son got underway.
“I have lost my child. It is painful. I am worried because almost everyone in my family is showing symptoms of the illness,” he said. Area chief Kibet Kobetbet said a group of medics who visited the area recently discovered that 30 out of 100 people were suffering from the disease, describing the current state of affairs as alarming.
Kiptis assured locals that the county is well-equipped with drugs to treat the disease, and called on residents in affected areas to seek medical attention. Meanwhile, the County Director of Medical Services, Kipsang Mariach, said in highly endemic areas, Hepatitis B is most commonly spread from mother to child at birth.
“The disease is spread through prenatal transmission and also through horizontal transmission by getting exposed to infected blood especially from an infected child to an un-infected child during the first five years of life,” said Mariach.
Hepatitis B is also spread by percutaneous or mucosal exposure to infected blood and various body fluids, as well as through saliva, menstrual, vaginal, and seminal fluids.
The director also noted that sexual transmission of Hepatitis B may occur, particularly in un-vaccinated men who have sex with men and heterosexual persons with multiple sex partners. The disease attacks the liver and causes death. According to the World Health Organisations (WHO), more than 686,000 people die every year due to complication caused by Hepatitis B.