Three North Rift counties issue Hepatitis B alert.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos. He has said health officers are vaccinating residents against hepatitis B. 

Three counties in the North Rift have issued an alert following a hepatitis B outbreak that has claimed lives.

Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo and West Pokot counties have been hit by the disease, yet most of their health facilities have inadequate vaccines to stem the disease.

“The disease is dangerous. The rate at which it is spreading is alarming. We have partnered with the national government and there is a need to screen more people and vaccinate them,” he said.

“We are currently mapping out the affected areas in Chepareria, Kacheliba, Alale, Miskwony and Kodich ahead of the vaccination,” Mr Lipale said.

He added that there was an urgent need to vaccinate people living in these areas to prevent a possible pandemic.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, Governor Alex Tolgos clarified that the disease had not reached epidemic levels but residents will be vaccinated to prevent further spread.

“We received 4,000 doses, which we have administered free of charge to people in the affected areas. So far, we have vaccinated 5,000 residents across the four sub-counties which have had casualties.

“We have also vaccinated 1,900 of our health staff because some of them become casualties of this disease in the course of duty,” the governor explained.

Hepatitis B affects the liver and can be fatal if left untreated for six months. It has also been known to cause liver failure and even cancer.

The disease spreads through contact with infected blood or bloody fluids, according to the World Health organization.

Baringo County Public Health Chief Officer Winnie Bore commented that the hardest hit areas were Baringo South, Mogotio and the lower parts of Baringo North and Kerio Valley.

49,000 people have tested positive for the disease, with more than 20 reported to have died since 2013.

Due to retrogressive cultural beliefs, most of the patients think that they have been bewitched and end up consulting herbalists thereby worsening the situation.

“We are targeting mostly families that have lost relatives in the past so that they can be tested and vaccinated,” Ms Bore said.

She said those who test positive and those vaccinated will be given cards and registered for follow-up, as will those who lost relatives to the disease.

“We have procured more than 19,000 doses from the national government, which will be enough for more than 10,000 people. We have also put enough drugs in the hotspots so that patients don’t have to travel to the county referral hospitals,” she said.

The symptoms may include fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach discomfort and yellow skin. The virus is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and saliva.

Hepatitis B is the only sexually transmitted disease that has a safe and effective vaccine to protect against infection.

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