Alarm over rise in coronavirus home deaths

Friday, May 15th, 2020 00:00 |
Health CAS Rashid Aman.

Mombasa county has recorded rising numbers in Covid-19 home deaths that could pose a threat to ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

Last Sunday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe linked the high mortality to refusal by residents to be tested.

Some residents have attributed their refusal to go to hospital to stigma associated with the disease and forced quarantine of family members in deplorable conditions.

The National Emergency Response on Covid-19 Committee is now turning the  spotlight on the increasing home deaths warning that “refusal of those getting sick at home to report to health facilities and resistance to test in Mombasa” could slow down flattening of the coronavirus curve.

He added: “If a person is sick and you try and hide them or try to help them at home then you will be in problems.”

Mass testing

On May 6, two people aged 68 and 72 passed away at home and the cause of their deaths were only discovered following tests after death. 

On May 8, the county reported another death of a man who had escaped from Old Town area together with four others and their families.

The man died at home two days after being informed that he had tested positive for the virus during the mass testing exercise.

On Tuesday, Ministry of Health  Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman raised concerns over the home deaths saying they are a threat to the efforts put to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

He said the deaths are resulting from families hiding their relatives from going for treatment.

On Tuesday, Aman announced that Covid-19 deaths in the country rose to 36 after three people succumbed to the disease in Mombasa. Aman said two people died at their homes and another in hospital.

Of concern is that many people do not know how to handle those who have passed on at home.

This hampered ability to identify those who are infected and asymptomatic. MoH says that up to 60 per cent of those infected are asymptomatic.

This means that there are high chances of disease spreading to many people if an infected person dies at home and MoH protocols on how to handle the body are not adhered to.

Lack of awareness

Families that have lost their loved ones from other ailments apart from the virus at home are forced to undergo traumatising experience as their kin are treated as Covid-19 victims and the response by health experts itself deepens their sorrow.

Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) Rapid Response officer Francis Auma says the government has done too little to educate the public on how to handle Covid-19 infected persons and related deaths. 

 “We are seeing a rising trend of stigmatisation and discrimination; this is because there is lack of awareness.

These kinds of scenarios are to blame for the home deaths we are witnessing because people are afraid to be victimised when their kin turns positive,” said Ouma.

Residents have also raised concerns over medics taking too long to collect body of people who die at home saying this has potential of exposing them to the virus if it turns out that the dead had the virus. 

A case in point is that of a man who died at Kwa Karama area in Nyali on May 10. Close family members and local leaders claim their kin who was asthmatic died at home but medical experts took hours before they could come and collect the body.

 “We called them when this man was sick because he was asthmatic and people were already afraid to interact with him, they took too long to respond until when they came the man had died.

Upon their arrival, they treated the patient badly that the family members were left in agony,” said Kongowea Member of County Assembly Abrari Mohammed.

Another case is that of a man identified as John Mabonga, 42, which occurred on April 24. He was found dead in his house at Kwa Hola area in Changamwe.

When police were called to collect the body, the declined saying they were awaiting for public health officers. The public health officer did not show up until the next day.  

Moses Edwachi, a neighbour, said it was wrong for both police and public health officers to let the body stay for long without being taken away.

“Such incidences would only serve to expose neighbours and the other member so the family more,” he said.

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