Research more on Corona deaths, experts urge State

Monday, May 18th, 2020 00:00 |
A young resident of Biafra in Eastleigh South, Nairobi, undergoes a nose swab by an health. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

With the number of deaths caused by coronavirus hitting 50 in the country, questions are now emerging over whether the government has undertaken any research to determine the extent to which the virus is causing the fatalities.

According to medical experts, the virus could be the major cause of the deaths, a contributory factor or the virus is simply present when the persons are dying of something else.

In the United Kingdom, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) tried to shed light on the deaths related to coronavirus.

 ONS looked at nearly 4,000 deaths in England and Wales during March.

There were two main findings. Firstly, the virus was the cause of the majority of deaths, not other factors.

Secondly, nine in 10 deaths  did have pre-existing illnesses, such as heart diseases and respiratory problems that put them at heightened risk of death anyway.

Dr. Willis Akhwale, a specialist in tropical medicine says the death figures being reported daily are hospital cases where a person dies with the coronavirus infection in their body .

“But the authorities now need to tell us what is the real cause of the deaths. Are the people dying as a result of being infected with the coronavirus or are they dying due to an existing illness that they have been suffering from?,” asks Akhwale.

Conduct tests

 Akhwale now says Health ministry specialists need to conduct comprehensive postmortem on bodies of persons who have succumbed to the virus to determine whether it was the primary cause or a stimulating factor.

Experts are now questioning whether the deaths in Africa are directly caused by coronavirus like in the cases of Europe, China and the United States or are as a result of some existing medical conditions.

Akhwale cites the recent case of the 55-year-old Erick Kosgei of Bomet, who succumbed to the virus last week.

The Nairobi-based businessman, with a history of diabetes,  had travelled from Nairobi to Bomet county on May 4.

He was admitted at Longisa Hospital the same day before he passed away the following day. According to relatives, Kosgei  had travelled while ill.

Avail statistics

Samples taken to Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) on May 5 after he died were finally released on May 12, and showed he had Covid-19.

“So in this case, what caused Kosgei’s death? Was it coronavirus or the reaction of his diabetic condition after the man had been infected with the coronavirus?,” he asks.

Another similar incident was the death of James Oyugi Onyango, in Siaya, whose burial in the middle of the night caused uproar forcing Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe to apologise to the family.

The former Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) employee, had travelled to Siaya from Mombasa on April 7 together with one of his two wives and two children after having spent nights in Nairobi and Kisumu.

Family members say Onyango started coughing on April 10  and was rushed to Matibabu Foundation Hospital where he died on the same day at 7pm.

The results came back after his death from the Centre for Global Health Research, Kemri labs in Kisumu indicating he had tested positive. 

Onyango is said to have been experiencing high blood pressure and diabetes.

“The government now needs to determine the real causes of the deaths to enable us to know the havoc the virus is causing among Kenyans,”says  Akhwale.

It is a view shared by Dr. Moses Masika, a virologist and a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, who says the data on  the real cause of the deaths could assist medical practitioners in several ways.

“Though the data could be available, the Ministry of Health is better placed to comment on that issue. But it is an important factor in the fight against the pandemic,” he says.

Akhwale also challenges the Health ministry to make available statistics on the daily hospital admission rates as a result of the virus.

“Testing positive for coronavirus does not lead to one being admitted to a hospital. Only those in critical conditions end up being admitted.

So it would be of much help if the government also told us how many people are admitted in hospitals on a daily basis after testing positive and how many deaths result from that,” he argues.

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