Although no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Kenya as of March 7, 2020, there is need to be prepared for the possibility of an outbreak by taking proactive measures that prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. There are justifiable fears and concerns regarding the country’s preparedness level due to the past reactive tendencies to emergency crises in the country. The manner in which the country deals with this novel coronavirus will be a test of a pandemic preparedness.
What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an outbreak investigation in Wuhan, China.
How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus that causes COVID-19 probably emerged from an animal source, but is now spreading from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Given the magnitude and spread of COVID-19 outbreak, many countries have enforced stringent measures to prevent and control COVID-19 because not only will it cause deaths, but also severe social, economic, and personal disruption.
Proactive measures are needed otherwise the situation will move from bad to worse. Looking the other way with hopes that this is a passing cloud is very reckless and dangerous.
How is Kenya’s public health authorities responding?
The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is definitely spreading globally and therefore a there is need to actively prepare because it is not a question of IF but WHEN cases start being reported. Without adequate preparedness measures, many people will feel helpless, react irrationally and escalate cases of panic, stress and fear. It is better to over-prepare and nothing happens than under-prepare and then something big happens. My questions to our health authorities are:
- Do we actually have a real pandemic preparedness plan in Kenya and if so, what does it entail?
- What will happen when the first case is confirmed?
- How have our first responders, health workers/providers and health systems been adequately prepared to effectively deal with COVID-19 cases?
- Do we have adequate guidance to support high congregate settings like schools, churches, public transportation, etc.?
Let us hope that the health authorities have already figured out as that is what preparedness calls for. Only time will tell.
“By Failing to prepare, you are planning to fail”. Benjamin Franklin
References: CDC, WHO