CHOLERA OUTBREAK IN KENYA

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi wishes to inform American citizens in Kenya that there is an ongoing outbreak of cholera that has affected at least nine counties in Kenya and has produced over 3,000 reported cases and over 60 reported deaths. The counties affected by the Cholera outbreak are Nairobi, Homa Bay, Mombasa, Nakuru, Muranga, Kirinyaga, Baringo, Kiambu and Embu.

What is cholera?

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine by a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be a severe or even fatal illness resulting from the extensive fluid loss that accompanies the most severe cases.

Approximately one in 10 (5-10%) infected persons will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps (cramps are caused by fluid and salt loss).  In those people with a severe case of cholera, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock.  Without treatment, death can occur within hours.  It can take anywhere from a few hours to 5 days for symptoms to appear after infection.  Symptoms most typically appear in 2-3 days.

How is cholera transmitted?

The cholera bacterium is usually found in water or food sources that have been contaminated by feces from a person infected with the cholera bacterium.  Cholera is most likely to be found and spread in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.  As a result, outbreaks are most common or most severe in very low income settings, such as urban slums.  The cholera bacterium may also live in the environment in brackish rivers and coastal waters that are contaminated with sewage.  Consuming raw shellfish can also be a source of cholera if the shellfish was harvested in potentially contaminated waters.

What do you do if you suspect cholera infection?

Seek medical attention immediately.  Fluid replacement is essential, as dehydration can occur rapidly.  If oral rehydration solution (ORS) is available, the infected person should start taking it immediately; it can save his or her life.  He or she should continue to drink ORS until further medical attention is available.  Cholera can be successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea.

Prevention:

All people (visitors or residents) in areas where cholera is occurring or has occurred should observe the following recommendations:

  • Drink only bottled, boiled, or chemically treated water and bottled or canned carbonated beverages. When using bottled drinks, make sure that the seal has not been broken.
  • To disinfect your own water: boil for 1 minute or filter the water and add 2 drops of household bleach or ½ an iodine tablet per liter of water.
  • Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and clean water.
  • If no water and soap are available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Clean your hands especially before you eat or prepare food and after using the bathroom.
  • Use bottled, boiled, or chemically treated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, or make ice.
  • Eat foods that are packaged or that are freshly cooked and served hot.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meats.
  • Do not eat fruits that have been peeled by someone other than you.
  • Clean your fruits and vegetables using: 1 tablespoon of bleach (e.g. Jik) in 4 liters of water, and soak for 15 minutes. Rinse off with clean water, and air dry.

CDC has a Travelers’ Health Website that contains information on cholera and other diseases of concern to travelers.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Kenya enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. 

Regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, including the Travel Warning for Kenya, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution.  Read the Country Specific Information for Kenya.  For additional information, refer to “Traveler’s Checklist” on the State Department’s website.

Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions.  You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to have travel information at your fingertips.

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is located on United Nations Avenue Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya , tel. +254-20-363-6000. You can contact the Consular Section of the Embassy by phone at +254(0)20-363-6451 or via email at Kenya_ACS@state.gov.  For after-hours emergencies, please call +254-(0) 20-363-6000.

Providing Assistance to U.S. Citizens is our Top Priority!