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Two major Nairobi hotels closed in fight against cholera epidemic

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- At least four people have died, over 300 admitted to hospital and two major hotels are closed indefinitely in the capital Nairobi as Kenya fights against a cholera epidemic.

A crackdown on illegal food vendors has also been launched and all food handlers are ordered to undergo medical tests as authorities battle the disease associated with poor hygiene and sanitation.

On Wednesday, Health Cabinet Secretary Dr. Cleopa Mailu while giving an update on the disease announced in Nairobi that 67 people are currently admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest referral hospital, and 12 other health institutions across the city.

“We have so far recorded four cholera-related deaths in the city and several admissions to hospital,” he said.

He added that the two hotels, Jacaranda and San Valencia, had been shut down indefinitely to help contain the spread of the disease.

The two Nairobi-based hotels are reported to have offered catering services at separate events where participants, including two Cabinet Secretaries, were later hospitalized after contracting cholera.

Mailu said the government will also inspect all water bowsers and water sources and food vendors to prevent the spread of the disease.

However, not only Nairobi County has been affected, according to the health ministry, up to 12 counties have been hit by the cholera outbreak with the capital and Garissa being the most affected.

Cholera is a severe diarrhoeal disease that if unchecked can kill victims in hours. Health experts note that it takes between 12 hours and five days for someone to show symptoms after coming into contact with contaminated food or water.

Statistics show every year some 1.3 million to 4 million cholera cases are reported across the world, resulting in 140,000 deaths.

Nairobi’s cholera outbreak, which started in May, is however unique as the disease, which has for many years affected people in informal settlements due to poor sanitation and hygiene has invaded big hotels.

Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko on Monday directed the county governments to ban food hawking and inspect all hotels in 21 days as the ministry appointed a taskforce to battle the disease.

Campaigns have also been launched to sensitize people on how to curb the disease through proper hygiene and sanitation.

City residents and others across the country have been asked to boil drinking water, wash their hands after going to the toilet and before they eat and ensure the environments they live in are clean.

The Nairobi cholera epidemic has become a hot campaign issue ahead of the August 8 polls that candidates running for the governor post are blaming the incumbent for the crisis.

“Dr Evans Kidero has no business seeking for re-election because he has completely neglected garbage collection and sanitation that we now have a cholera outbreak. The county has completely failed to invest in water management systems making people consume untreated water,” Peter Kenneth, one of the aspirants, said Tuesday.

Kidero, the governor, however, has fought back noting the mounds of garbage and poor sanitation are not to blame for the epidemic. Kidero directed the blame on upcountry travellers entering Nairobi as the first case of the disease was reported at a wedding attended by visitors from western Kenya in May.

A month-long nurses’ strike in the East African nation has hampered response to the outbreak, with people suffering from the disease failing to get adequate attention.

The nurses went on strike late June calling for the implementation of a collective bargaining agreement they signed with the government.

Attempts to end the stalemate have failed, with the nurses vowing to keep off work until their demands are met.

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