Dealing with other diseases besides COVID-19 is equally important

by James Kamuye Kataru

For the past ten years (2010-2020)  Kenya has mounted efforts with the World Health Organization  (WHO) to eliminate and control Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) such as schistosomiasis (bilharzia), soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) or intestinal worms, lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), and trachoma. According to WHO the goal of this decade-long effort is to at least eliminate one of these diseases by 2030 (See Kenya Making Progress in the Fight against NTDs).

Specifically, in December 2021 and January 2022 the Kenyan government and World Health Organization administered vaccine tablets to citizens to prevent bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Amazingly, these tablets were larger sized as compared to the usual size of tablets and not an injection like most Kenyans are used to. Not knowing about the fight against NTDs, I wondered why the government, had suddenly decided to campaign against a disease that was heard of prevalent more than 30 years ago amidst a pandemic?.

 The Zika virus, Chikungunya, Dengue, and Yellow fever causing Aedes aegypti mosquito. Photo Credit: SAWBO website

In most Kenyan communities, young children will quickly point to you that the most dangerous disease they know is COVID-19 which they have witnessed to have “stopped life” as they used to know it. Furthermore, these children Will recite to you how everything has been interfered with including their normal schooling schedule, shopping routines, playground rules, and restrictions on gatherings. Those who have watched the SAWBO animated videos on fighting the pandemic will tell you they have been watching many of the COVID-19 related videos, yet videos on fighting Malaria, Cholera, Zika, Tuberculosis, and others are available in the SAWBO video library.

Generally, people can recite the “COVID-19 protocol” without blinking an eye and remind you to wash your hands with soap and clean running water or use hand sanitizers regularly, maintain social distance, properly wear face masks, become fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, and go for a booster dose as recommended by the Ministry of Health.

The focus on the COVID-19 pandemic has made, for some, other dangerous diseases appear less harmful, yet their control, treatment, and eradication are quite essential to humanity. That is why in this blog I take the opportunity to remind my readers not to forget preventive measures against other dangerous diseases featured in the SAWBO animated videos. 

1. Cholera prevention

This is an intestinal infection caused by the Vibrio cholera bacteria. Cholera is caused by consuming contaminated food and water. Its symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. In the brief SAWBO video, which I highly recommend my readers to watch, we learn how to prevent cholera by treating water, washing hands regularly, as well as and seeking medical advice in case of an infection. Please watch this animated video on Cholera prevention and share this video widely to help save lives. For the Kenyan audience, this video is available in English and Swahili.

2. Malaria prevention: Using bed nets

Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted to people through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Symptoms of malaria are; high fever, chills, abdominal pain, headaches, tiredness, and fatigue. In case of an infection, the sick person should urgently seek medical assistance. Malaria can cause serious health complications, especially in infants and young children. Prevention measures include not being bitten by the mosquito. Proper installation of mosquito nets around your bed and sleeping areas keeps mosquitoes away. Please download, watch, and share this video on Malaria prevention with friends and family. For the Kenyan audience, this video is available in English and Swahili. There is also a music video from SAWBO about Malaria Prevention.

3. Drug-resistant Tuberculosis.

Sometime back, a friend who was using a congested public transport train to work got a serious TB infection. At first, it seemed a harmless persistent cough until she took medical tests. TB is treatable if the doctor’s instructions are followed carefully. If not treated properly, the virus can become resistant to one or multiple drugs hence becoming multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

The SAWBO animation, Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis or (MDR-TB), explains the treatment plan that involves a group of antibiotics called “second-line antibiotics”. When a patient has a treatment plan with a doctor, it is important to adhere to the prescription strictly. For the Kenyan audience, this video is available in English.

4. Zika virus

The Zika virus, Chikungunya, Dengue, and Yellow Fever are caused by a flavivirus transmitted through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito.  These infections can be sexually transmitted hence the need for infected couples to take precautions such as using condoms. SAWBO has an animation that discusses the Zika virus to watch and share. For the Kenyan audience, this video is available in English.

Symptoms of the Zika virus infection normally last two to seven days and have no known treatment. They include:

•           Fever

•           Skin rash

•           Conjunctivitis (red or pink eye)

•           Joint pains

•           Muscle pain

•           Headache

Here, I have just listed a few serious diseases that require urgent attention just like COVID-19. Health workers should increase sensitization to educate communities on the danger posed and advise families to take their sick to the hospital and seek medical intervention.

Note: The information and content in the video (content) should not substitute for professional or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Purdue University and SAWBO disclaim responsibility or liability for any loss or injury that may be incurred as a result of the use of any content included in the video. Viewers and users of the video should always consult a physician or other professional for diagnosis, treatment, and/or advice. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of the content of this video.

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