By Mary Hearty

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has set straight the ongoing misinformation circulating on both local media and social media on ‘influenza outbreak’ in the country under the title “KEMRI Study Reveals Influenza Outbreak”.

In a press statement, the medical research institute wrote that the alleged ‘outbreak’ is based on a total of 36 samples tested over a three-month period from September to November 2021 during their usual surveillance exercise in the country.

“Out of this total of 36 samples, only four tested positive for flu which is insignificant finding to warrant concerns of an influenza outbreak especially within the tropics,” the statement reads.

They explained that on average, the four positive tests within a three-month period may equate to nearly one positive case per month which does not reach the threshold of an influenza outbreak.

“Past outbreaks have involved higher percentage of cases being positive. In one incident, 150 samples testing positive from a sample of 250 and another case 14 out of 20 samples tested positive,” KEMRI stated.

According to the medical institute’s long term studies in Kenya, influenza viruses circulate all year, “so you can expect a certain number of people to have the flu at any given time which is not considered an outbreak.”

Moreover, previous studies have shown that Kenya records two peaks following rainy seasons. Therefore, they said the available evidence is not sufficient to declare this as an outbreak.

Having said that, a single case of an Ebola virus or poliovirus infection is always considered an outbreak due to the severity of these infections or the virus’s eradication status, but this is not the case for influenza virus infections especially in the tropics.

Overall, KEMRI assured the public not panic about the reported ‘outbreak’ of influenza but instead exercise higher standards of personal hygiene including hand washing, not crowding, eating healthy and visit your local health provider as preventive measures.