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Mysterious deaths of three after Karen wedding explained

Nairobi was on Thursday evening on high alert after three people who all met and ate at a wedding in Karen on Saturday died of cholera. Five others including a foreigner are admitted to various hospitals in the city.

The victims and patients were part of a larger group of about 400 guests who had attended the garden wedding in the area.

Food had been supplied by an outsourced caterer.

There are fears that the number of those who are sick could be higher and will likely affect other counties as some of the guests came from Mombasa and Eldoret.

Tana River and Dadaab in Garissa have confirmed cholera cases while Vihiga and Murang’a, traditionally Kenya’s cholera hotspots, are being monitored closely for possible outbreaks.

The Karen newlyweds, who wished to remain anonymous, cut short their honeymoon in Mombasa on Thursday and flew back to Nairobi to visit their ailing relatives and friends.

The whistle-blower.
The whistle-blower.

Nairobi’s County Executive Committee Member for Health, Bernard Muia, confirmed the cases but denied there were any deaths related to the disease. He said the reported cases were imported from elsewhere.

“I am advised by the county disease surveillance team that the patients admitted to Nairobi hospitals came from western Kenya,” he said.


However, this may not be the case as a visiting German, Mr Alex Wolf, who attended the wedding alongside his Kenyan girlfriend, is admitted to Nairobi Hospital in isolation and is being treated for the disease, which has since created kidney complications.

“This is my first time in Kenya,” said Mr Wolf from his hospital bed. “We came to Nairobi for the wedding and it was a lovely event. The food was good. I ate rice, fish and meatballs. But then I developed stomachache and diarrhoea on Saturday night and came to hospital on Monday. The tests confirm that I have cholera.”

As a result of the admission, Mr Wolf missed his flight back home on Thursday morning. Close to his room was another patient, Ms Liz Nerima Oganga, who at the time of the interview at 2pm on Thursday, was on her 16th drip of water and medication. She was admitted on Wednesday midnight.

“I only ate a small piece of fish and spinach at the wedding. By Monday, however, I had severe bouts of diarrhoea accompanied by extreme fatigue. By Wednesday, I was crawling on my knees; the pain was unbearable. The doctors say the dehydration affected my kidneys,” she said. Her son has also been unwell and was on Thursday afternoon being attended to at the same hospital.

Another guest at the wedding, Ms Pamela Kerre, a cousin of the groom, lost her brother Steve Musalia on Tuesday to cholera complications.

Earlier on Monday this week, two other close relatives who had also attended the wedding died in Vihiga.

At the time of the interview, Ms Kerre was being discharged from Nairobi Hospital, where she had been hospitalised for two days due to the stomach infection.


“They confirmed my brother had cholera,” she said. “He fell ill on Monday morning and his wife rushed him to a hospital in Komarock later in the day at 5pm. But we lost him on Tuesday morning, at 2am. The postmortem report from Chiromo mortuary shows he died of severe dehydration and multiple organ failure.”

Family members who spoke to the Nation suspect their woes came from the food they ate at the ceremony. There are sketchy details of the hired cateress, who on Thursday refused to comment on the matter.

However, sources close to the company intimated to this newspaper that one of the people who served food at the wedding had been unwell with a stomach infection.

Mr Eric Kibe, the programme director at SafiServe, an organisation that trains food service workers on how to protect consumers from food-borne risks, said Kenyans need to be careful with who makes their meals.

“We are all food consumers and if you bring a caterer to your event, make sure that you have proof of their wellbeing,” he said.

“Do they have a food handling certificate, for instance? This certificate expires every six months, therefore, you should watch out for this.

“But even in your own home, ensure personal hygiene, wash your hands with soap and boil or treat your water.”