At least 15 cases of Dengue Fever at the Kenya coast have been reported by Health officials, and were swift to point out that the disease was ‘imported’ by travelers carrying the infection before passing it on to certain types of mosquitoes which in turn then were able to pass it on to other people.
East Africa is known to be the area where the Anopheles mosquito spreads malaria, from the milder versions to the often fatal cerebral malaria (Falciparum), but the region has so far been spared of much of other mosquito borne viral diseases of which Dengue fever is the most common one with over 100 million infections and approximately 25.000 recorded deaths worldwide.
Pathologists and doctors reportedly have called for an intensified campaign of spraying to prevent the mosquitoes from breeding but also to finetune the surveillance and monitoring of such diseases.
While there is no known vaccine as yet against Dengue Fever, several global institutions and private companies are said to be working on creating an effective vaccine.
A regular tourism source from Kenya dismissed the newspaper reports as ‘sensationalizing the issue, because there is no panic as they allege and it is them trying to create a panic by not being mindful of how they report such a sensitive matter’. The source went on to say ‘of course there are diseases in East Africa. There are diseases everywhere around the world. Legionnaires disease for instance in the developed world which we never had here in East Africa. There was SARS and we never had it here either. You had Ebola and Yellow Fever and Marburg in Uganda and contained it very well. Tourists are not normally coming into contact with such things, the resorts spray their grounds regularly against mosquito borne diseases. Yes we have malaria but that is the case in many other tropical beach destinations also. Our media people need to learn how to report things in context and not be the source of panic, when there is no panic in the first place’.
Unlike the ‘normal’ mosquitoes, or in particular the Anopheles which only feeds at night, the Aedes Aegypti type which can carry (but not necessarily does) the Dengue Fever and Yellow Fever viruses, feeds during the day, times when most people are not protected by mosquito nets or other measures.
The news is currently most unwelcome of course, as the Kenya coast gears up to receive large numbers of upcountry and regional visitors for the Easter weekend, after foreign visitors, regularly referred to as ‘Wagenis’ have stayed away as a result of the ongoing uncertainty over the outcome of the March 04 elections. This has kept occupancy sharply down compared to last year, a situation very much regretted of course as even at the height of the 2008 post election violence not one tourist came to harm in Kenya as the feuding parties back then stayed well clear of tourist hot spots, resorts and other places of interest regularly visited by tourists.