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Why in Nairobi cholera is no longer a ‘poor man’s disease’

Cholera has for long been associated with poverty. That is no longer the case.

A case in point is the recent outbreak of the disease at the Nairobi Hospital, a high-end private hospital frequented by the rich and famous.

Who would have thought that such a facility would experience a cholera outbreak?

“The hospital has been handling cholera cases day in day out. We are treating the outbreak seriously. An investigation is going on,” said a source who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to speak for the hospital.

In July 2017, three top government officials were treated for cholera-related symptoms after eating at a trade fair at Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi.

Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich, his Trade counterpart Adan Mohammed and Trade PS Chris Kiptoo were among more than 50 people treated and discharged for cholera-related symptoms.


In the same month, a doctors’ conference at Weston Hotel ended prematurely following a cholera outbreak.

Some 26 participants were admitted to the Nairobi Hospital after taking meals at the hotel. A doctor from the UK was flown home for treatment.

Dr Joseph Aluoch, the chairman of the conference organising committee, said participants fell ill after eating lunch.

Dr Aluoch said the source of the infection might have been “packed lunch which contained fish”.

In May of the same year, three people died of cholera after attending a high-end wedding in Karen.

Five others, including a German visitor, were treated at various city hospitals.


Mr Alex Wolf, who was at the wedding with his Kenyan girlfriend, was put in an isolation ward at the Nairobi Hospital. He later developed kidney complications.

The cases above involved outdoor catering companies.

Kisumu County Chief Health Officer Ojwang’ Lusi said poor food handling can lead to the spread of the disease.

“It is possible that someone did not observe hygiene while handling food,” he said of the Nairobi Hospital cases.

He warned that fruits and salads can be breeding grounds for cholera, especially when handled carelessly.

“Cholera is brought about by eating contaminated food, including salads. Those handling salads should observe hygiene,” Dr Lusi said.