Rare mosquito virus sends Changamwe into panic

Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu

Panic has gripped Changamwe residents in Mombasa where several families are down with symptoms of what is believed to be O’nyong’nyong virus (OnnV).

The virus belonging to the Togaviridae family is primarily transmitted by anopheline mosquitoes. A number of patients interviewed at Changamwe estate neighbourhood complained of headache, rashes, joint pains and in some cases abdominal pains accompanied by diarrhea, which are all symptoms that characterise the disease, according to medics.

“I fell ill on December 23 and the following day my husband and two children were also down with the disease. I started feeling cold with shivers, my whole body was aching,” said Mariam Ali, who claims she was among the first people to catch the ailment.

“I went to Coast Provincial General Hospital and even though tests were inconclusive, a doctor told me the symptoms were that of O’nyong’nyong virus.” She was admitted for two days and was later referred to a local private hospital where together with her husband and children were administered symptomatic treatment and discharged.

“I have completely lost appetite and have been surviving on porridge and a little bone soup,” she added. The disease is said to be spreading fast in the neighbourhood of Changamwe where a growing number of patients have reportedly been frequenting nearby medical facilities for treatment of similar symptoms.

“I am a boda boda operator and I have taken more than 15 patients to different local hospitals complaining of these similar symptoms,” said Albert Kambi. However, county Health chief officer Dr Khadija Shikely denied reports of the viral disease outbreak in the county and blamed the media of misrepresenting her statements.

“There is no O’nyong’nyong virus in Mombasa, no case has been reported. I have stopped talking to the media because they have been misquoting me every other time I issue a statement,” she said and promised to release an official statement on the same through the county director of communication Richard Chacha.

But concerned Changamwe residents have accused governor Hassan Ali Joho’s administration of failing to manage the hygiene standards in the county. “There are blockages and flooding of dirty water in almost every corner and these are forming fertile grounds for mosquitoes to breed bringing strange diseases like Dengue, Chikungunya and O’nyong’nyong,” said Kambi who asked the county officials to intervene by spraying affected areas and initiating clean-up campaigns to stop repeated outbreaks.

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