A family and villagers at Katira village in Nambale sub county, Busia County are living in fear after a 31-year-old man died of Hepatitis B disease. According to family members, the late Philip Opaye started complaining of stomachaches in 2018 and was diagnosed with ulcers.
However, his condition kept on deteriorating according to his wife Elizabeth Opaye and his brother Ben Okiru, until he died at Kocholia sub county hospital on 3rd October 2019 shortly after he was confirmed to have hepatitis B virus, “He used to complain of headache, stomachache and diarrhea. We took him to various hospitals in Kenya and at Totoro in Uganda but initially they told us he was suffering from ulcers. Later on they did another test and told us he was suffering from hepatitis B which had affected his liver. He didn’t stay long and passed on on 3rd October. We came home and started preparing for the burial on Friday but we were shocked when some health officers from Nambale came and told us we have to be vaccinated before we bury the deceased so that we are also not infected.”
Their biggest worry and concern is lack of funds to pay for the vaccination which costs Kshs 1200 per person, “We have been told that each person has to pay one thousand two hundred shillings to be vaccinated and you can see how poor we are. We cannot afford that amount and our family is big consisting of over forty people that is why we are appealing to the government to help us get the vaccination because we have mingled with the late for that long and there is a possibility of some of us having been infected with the virus.”
Hepatitis B is a viral infection which attacks the liver and is infected through blood and body fluids. When it becomes chronic it can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Locals claim several people have died in the area in the same manner although they have been presuming it’s poisoning, “This is not the first time we are loosing someone in this area in such a manner, we have buried many people who suffer and die this way but we have always been assuming they have been poisoned. Even in this case, we thought he had been poisoned until a doctor’s report showed he had been suffering from Hepatitis B.”
Nambale sub county Deputy commissioner Mrs. Caroline Onchoka speaking to West Media in her office said they have moved with speed in collaboration with health officers to put in place necessary measures to contain the disease, “Health officers are already on the ground carrying out tests and will vaccinate locals. Currently it’s only children who are vaccinated for free and adults have to pay because of the cost of the reagents used. We are also using chiefs, their assistants and ‘ligurus’ to organize a big baraza in the area to sensitize the community on how to avert the disease from spreading and building latrines is one of the key things we want them to do because the report we have is that even the affected family has no latrine and that is risky as far as Hepatitis B is concerned.”