Kenya’s Olympics-bound athletes and team officials will be screened for Zika virus before they leave for Brazil and also when they come back home, Health PS Nicholas Muraguri said.
The screening is a precautionary measure that will help prevent the introduction and spread of the disease in the country.
Muraguri said that the Kenyan team, consisting of 150 representatives, would be subjected to pre- and post-games laboratory tests for the mosquito-borne arbovirus that is currently being reported by various countries among them Brazil.
Although the host nation has taken steps to ensure that the disease is kept at bay, Muraguri said it was necessary to set up early detection systems so as to capture any infection in time given that the team will be in Rio for about one month.
Zika virus is primarily transmitted through an infected Aedes mosquito but it can also spread through sexual contact with an infected man and from a pregnant infected mother to her unborn child.
“Any exposed individuals will be identified and public health action taken to prevent local transmission either sexually or through mosquito bites. The Ministry of Health regards this testing as a priority measure in preventing Zika virus,” Muraguri said.
He further revealed that the Centre for Virus Research at Kenya Medical Research Institute would test the team for the disease which has two lineages: the African and Asian lineages.
According to the World Health Organization, Brazil is among nations that are most affected with the Asian lineage of the disease. While the African lineage is not life threatening, the Asian lineage has been associated with increased incidences of serious birth defects in foetuses born to infected mothers.
“Although the African lineage was first detected in Uganda, the epidemic in South America is attributed to the Asian lineage of the virus,” observed the PS.
The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
According to the Centre for Disease Control, people usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital and they very rarely die of the disease. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
The first group of Kenyans is set to leave for Rio on July 24 ahead of the Games which will run from August 5 to 21.