The Ministry of Livestock Development in collaboration with the Ministry of public Health has launched a zoonotic Disease Unit, the first of its kind in Africa, in a bid to harmonize the fight for animal human diseases at a time when over 15million Kenyans are at risk of infection.
Kenya is currently grappling with a number of neglected disease burden with about 16 million people in 22 districts at risk of intestinal worms, 7 million people at risk of trachoma infection, 4000 reported cases of kal-azar, transmitted by sand flies, in 22 districts, with bilharzia being endemic in 56 districts and 3.4 million Kenyans at risk of elephantiasis infection according to figures from the Ministry of Public Health.
Under the one health approach, the unit, to be located at the National Malaria Control Programme in Kenyatta National Hospital, will have surveillance department that tracks any outbreak and immediately share the information between the Ministries of Livestock development and Public Health, while another department will be responsible for documenting all the information on diseases collected with a view to sharing it with the public. This, it is believed will help cut the spread by upto 70 percent.
Lack of adequate cooperation between human and animal health has been responsible for the slow pace of containing the zoonotic diseases in the country.
“In many occasions, zoonotic diseases have been viewed as of importance only when humans are affected yet animals are the host diseases,” saidMohammed Kuti the Minister of Livestock development during the launch.
He said recent public health events characterized by various epidemics and pandemics of zoonotic diseases like Rift Valley Fever, Anthrax and Rabies have influenced the need for greater collaboration among human and animal health domains and broader understanding of the ecosystem and mortality in both humans and animals.
The outbreak of pandemic influenza commomly known as H1N1 in 2009 in Kenya within three months after it was first detected in US caused a massive scare in the country with at least four cases reported. The disease took time to contain as line ministries struggled to harmonize control measures. The outbreak also demonstrated the vulnerability of the country to emerging infectious diseases, some of which have not been prioritized by the human and animal health sectors and are simply labeled “neglected.”
Minister for Public Health and Sanitation Beth Mugo said over the last three decades, over 30 disease causing germs have been detected, out of which 75 percent are of animal origin and are likely to emerge in the foreseeable future.
“Microbes, like all other living things, are evolving constantly. It is because of this that we have been witnessing an increasing number of new infectious diseases in both animals and humans such as the pandemic influenza of 2009,” she said.
“For example, rabies is a zoonotic disease of public health concern and although cost-effective tools for its elimination and modalities for use of these tools are available, we are yet to eliminate it,” she further added.
The launch comes months after a report by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology identified neighbouring Tanzania and Ethiopia as zoonoses hotspots raising the risk profile of Kenya.
The analysis found high levels of infection with these zoonoses among livestock in poor countries. For example, 27 per cent of livestock in developing countries showed signs of current or past infection with bacterial food-borne disease—a source of food contamination and widespread illness. The researchers attributed at least one-third of global diarrheal disease to zoonotic causes, and find this disease to be the biggest zoonotic threat to public health.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter