Pneumonia dislodges malaria to become Kenya’s top killer

Pneumonia last year dislodged malaria as the top killer of Kenyans with deaths from HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and meningitis declining.

Official data shows pneumonia killed 22,473 Kenyans last year, up 21,640 the previous year, while casualties from malaria — which has for years been the top killer — declined by 2,267 to 20,691.

Deaths from lifestyles diseases like cancer and heart diseases continues to rise, reflecting the public health crisis brought home by cancer at a time when the country is reeling from shortage of doctors who can handle the deadly disease.

Cancer is the third leading killer disease after malaria and pneumonia.

The official data show that reported deaths from cancer have been on the rise recently, climbing from 11, 527 in 2011 to 14, 175 in 2014 and 15,714 last year. Deaths from heart ailments increased 15.2 per cent to 5, 799.

The government credited interventions such as use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, residual sprays, increased supply of anti-malaria drugs as well early diagnosis and treatment for the drop in malaria deaths.

“Last year we invested Sh7.8 billion in provision of 13 million nets to households across the country at a cost of Sh600 per net and it is evident that the intervention is working towards curbing malaria deaths,” said the Health Principle Secretary, Nicholas Muraguri in a phone interview Tuesday.

He added that indoor smoking as well use of kerosene and wood fuel for lighting and cooking, especially in rural Kenya, was behind the surge in Pneumonia deaths.

“We are advocating for solar energy and we are targeting to have over 70 per cent of Kenyans connected to electricity by 2017 (under the rural electrification program) to reduce the rising cases of pneumonia,” said Dr Muraguri.

The acute respiratory infection, which affects the lungs, is the major cause of death for children under-five.

But it has not received much attention like TB and HIV/Aids. TB and HIV treatment are available for free and the country has also benefited from increased publicity drives against the two diseases.

TB diagnosis has been improved by the new type of diagnostic machines – gene expert- available in over 200 health facilities and is more sensitive to detecting cases at early stages.

TB deaths decreased by 803 cases to 10, 183 while HIV/Aids dropped to 11, 131, down from 12, 235.