Typhoid and cholera, deadly but can be prevented with vaccines

vaccineThe El Nino rains are with us here once again and threatening the water and health sector as it continues to cause havoc among Kenyans.

It is interesting that while cholera and typhoid continue to infect and  kill many people across the country but the doctors do not talk about the second line of prevention, that is pharmacological, which basically prevention through vaccinations. Whereas cholera has a new vaccine brand named Shanchol, which even many doctors, especially those in rural areas do not know that exists, the same cannot be said of typhoid fever.

The Shortage of clean drinking water, floods, sewerage bursts have increased incidences of typhoid fever in all parts of the country.

Experts say typhoid infects about 10 percent of population every year if not prevented with vaccines, managed well through proper and prompt treatments.

As typhoid remains a major threat and a killer disease, food handlers in kiosks, hotels, restaurants and open air markets are among the highest groups that could be infected.

Others risks groups include slum dwellers, fishermen, beach dwellers, school children, prisoners and those at refugee camps. School children are at risk of getting typhoid since by virtue of their age, they eat everything they come across including chalk and soil while food handlers are frequently exposed to contaminated food products and containers.

Once the food handlers are infected with typhoid they easily transmit the disease to their customers. Beach dwellers and fishermen handle foods which are sometimes contaminated.

Prisoners and those in refugee camps are confined into small setups in which if one person is infected he/she easily infects everybody.

Those whose immune systems have been compromised by HIV/Aids and other chronic diseases like diabetes are also at risk.

Cholera is the quickest killer disease in the world. Experts say it kills within four hours of infection.

It is ahead of Ebola because it kills  victim faster. Between March last year to February this year, cholera has killed over 1500 people in different parts of the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says good hygiene, safe drinking water, eating properly cooked food, washing of hands with a soap and hot water are the first line protection against both typhoid and cholera. The same caution has been repeatedly issued by ministry of health officials.

“To minimize and eliminate typhoid and cholera transmissions food handlers in all eating outlets must be vaccinated against the two air and water borne diseases every three year,” says Dr. Charles Chunge, an expert on tropical and travel diseases.

He adds that this should be done through County Public Health Officers and statutory medical certificates issued to the hotel and restaurant staff who handle food stuff.

According to the Chairman, of Kenya Pediatric Research Consortium Dr. Mohan Lumba, immunization of all risk groups mentioned above as well as healthy citizens will protect them against typhoid and cholera for a period of three years.

Dr. Lumba advises the Government to buy cholera and typhoid vaccines in bulk and vaccinate all prisoners in Kenya and those at refugee camps to protect them against the two killer diseases.

New evidence has also emerged on the proper use of Oral Cholera Vaccines and injectable typhoid vaccines as a public health tool to prevent the infections. Using Oral Cholera vaccines in an endemic setting was performed in Beira, Mozambique in the past few years.

It aims to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the vaccines as well as vaccines coverage in a population exposed to yearly recurrent cholera out breaks.

The WHO reports says that results were encouraging in a case control study conducted among vaccinated people. Mass vaccination campaigns using oral cholera vaccines and injectable typhoid vaccines are essential to protect people against the diseases.

Kenya has ready to use oral cholera vaccine known as Shanchol which offers protection for three years and typhoid fever vaccine known as Typhin Vi that also offer protection for three years.

The cholera vaccine is the latest to hit the Kenya market having been launched late last year by the world leading vaccines’ manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur Group.

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