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Anti-Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Immunoglobulin G Antibody Seroprevalence Among Truck Drivers and Assistants in Kenya

In October 2020, anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) immunoglobulin G seroprevalence among truck drivers and their assistants (TDA) in Kenya was 42.3%, higher than among healthcare workers and blood donors. Truck drivers and their assistants transport essential supplies during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, placing them at increased risk of being infected and of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 over a wide geographical area.
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The ethical implications of verbal autopsy: responding to emotional and moral distress

BACKGROUND: Verbal autopsy is a pragmatic approach for generating cause-of-death data in contexts without well-functioning civil registration and vital statistics systems. It has primarily been conducted in health and demographic surveillance systems (HDSS) in Africa and Asia. Although significant resources have been invested to develop the technical aspects of verbal autopsy, ethical issues have received little attention. We explored the benefits and burdens of verbal autopsy in HDSS settings and identified potential strategies to respond to the ethical issues identified. METHODS: This research was based on a case study approach centred on two contrasting HDSS in Kenya and followed the Mapping-Framing-Shaping Framework for empirical bioethics research. Data were collected through individual interviews, focus group discussions, document reviews and non-participant observations. 115 participants were involved, including 86 community members (HDSS residents and community representatives), and 29 research staff (HDSS managers, researchers, census field workers and verbal autopsy interviewers). RESULTS: The use of verbal autopsy data for research and public health was described as the most common potential benefit of verbal autopsy in HDSS. Community members mentioned the potential uses of verbal autopsy data in addressing immediate public health problems for the local population while research staff emphasized the benefits of verbal autopsy to research and the wider public. The most prominent burden associated with the verbal autopsy was emotional distress for verbal autopsy interviewers and respondents. Moral events linked to the interview, such as being unsure of the right thing to do (moral uncertainty) or knowing the right thing to do and being constrained from acting (moral constraint), emerged as key causes of emotional distress for verbal autopsy interviewers. CONCLUSIONS: The collection of cause-of-death data through verbal autopsy in HDSS settings presents important ethical and emotional challenges for verbal autopsy interviewers and respondents. These challenges include emotional distress for respondents and moral distress for interviewers. This empirical ethics study provides detailed accounts of the distress caused by verbal autopsy and highlights ethical tensions between potential population benefits and risks to individuals. It includes recommendations for policy and practice to address emotional and moral distress in verbal autopsy.
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Prevalence and mortality of epilepsies with convulsive and non-convulsive seizures in Kilifi, Kenya

OBJECTIVES: The prevalence of all epilepsies (both convulsive and non-convulsive seizures) in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC), particularly sub-Saharan Africa is unknown. Under estimation of non-convulsive epilepsies in data from these countries may lead to inadequate and sub-optimal allocation of resources to control and prevent epilepsy. We determined the prevalence of all types of epilepsies and compared the mortality between convulsive seizures and non-convulsive seizures in a resource limited rural area in Kenya. METHODS: Trained clinicians identified cases of epilepsy in a randomly selected sample of 4,441 residents in the Kilifi Health and Demographic Surveillance System site using a cross-sectional survey design. Seizure types were classified by epileptologists using the current guidelines of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE). We estimated prevalence for epilepsy with convulsive seizures and non-convulsive seizures and for epilepsy with non-convulsive seizures only and compared premature mortality between these groups of seizures. RESULTS: Of the 4441 people visited, 141 had lifetime epilepsy and 96 active epilepsy, which is a crude prevalence of 31.7/1,000 persons (95% CI: 26.6-36.9) and 21.6/1,000 (95% CI: 17.3-25.9), respectively. Both convulsive and non-convulsive seizures occurred in 7% people with epilepsy (PWE), only convulsive seizures in 52% and only non-convulsive seizures in 35% PWE; there was insufficient information to classify epilepsy in the remainder 6%. The age- and sex-adjusted prevalence of lifetime people was 23.5/1,000 (95% CI: 11.0-36.0), with the adjusted prevalence of epilepsy with non-convulsive seizures only estimated at 8.2/1,000 (95%CI:3.9-12.6). The mortality rate in PWE was 6.3/1,000 (95%CI: 3.4-11.8), compared to 2.8/1,000 (2.3-3.3) in those without epilepsy; hazard ratio (HR) =2.31 (1.22-4.39; p=0.011). The annual mortality rate was 11.2/1,000 (95%CI: 5.3-23.4) in PWE with convulsive and non-convulsive seizures and none died in PWE with non-convulsive seizures alone. CONCLUSIONS: Our study shows that epilepsy with non-convulsive seizures is common and adds to the prevalence of previously reported estimates of active convulsive epilepsy. Both epilepsy with convulsive seizures and that with non-convulsive seizures should be identified for optimising treatment and for planning resource allocation.
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Seroprevalence of Antibodies to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Among Healthcare Workers in Kenya

BACKGROUND: Few studies have assessed the seroprevalence of antibodies against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) among healthcare workers (HCWs) in Africa. We report findings from a survey among HCWs in 3 counties in Kenya. METHODS: We recruited 684 HCWs from Kilifi (rural), Busia (rural), and Nairobi (urban) counties. The serosurvey was conducted between 30 July and 4 December 2020. We tested for immunoglobulin G antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Assay sensitivity and specificity were 92.7 (95% CI, 87.9-96.1) and 99.0% (95% CI, 98.1-99.5), respectively. We adjusted prevalence estimates, using bayesian modeling to account for assay performance. RESULTS: The crude overall seroprevalence was 19.7% (135 of 684). After adjustment for assay performance, seroprevalence was 20.8% (95% credible interval, 17.5%-24.4%). Seroprevalence varied significantly (P < .001) by site: 43.8% (95% credible interval, 35.8%-52.2%) in Nairobi, 12.6% (8.8%-17.1%) in Busia and 11.5% (7.2%-17.6%) in Kilifi. In a multivariable model controlling for age, sex, and site, professional cadre was not associated with differences in seroprevalence. CONCLUSION: These initial data demonstrate a high seroprevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 among HCWs in Kenya. There was significant variation in seroprevalence by region, but not by cadre.
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Mortality during and following hospital admission among school-aged children: a cohort study

Background: Far less is known about the reasons for hospitalization or mortality during and after hospitalization among school-aged children than among under-fives in low- and middle-income countries. This study aimed to describe common types of illness causing hospitalisation; inpatient mortality and post-discharge mortality among school-age children at Kilifi County Hospital (KCH), Kenya. Methods: A retrospective cohort study of children 5-12 years old admitted at KCH, 2007 to 2016, and resident within the Kilifi Health Demographic Surveillance System (KHDSS). Children discharged alive were followed up for one year by quarterly census. Outcomes were inpatient and one-year post-discharge mortality. Results: We included 3,907 admissions among 3,196 children with a median age of 7 years 8 months (IQR 74-116 months). Severe anaemia (792, 20%), malaria (749, 19%), sickle cell disease (408, 10%), trauma (408, 10%), and severe pneumonia (340, 8.7%) were the commonest reasons for admission. Comorbidities included 623 (16%) with severe wasting, 386 (10%) with severe stunting, 90 (2.3%) with oedematous malnutrition and 194 (5.0%) with HIV infection. 132 (3.4%) children died during hospitalisation. Inpatient death was associated with signs of disease severity, age, bacteraemia, HIV infection and severe stunting. After discharge, 89/2,997 (3.0%) children died within one year during 2,853 child-years observed (31.2 deaths [95%CI, 25.3-38.4] per 1,000 child-years). 63/89 (71%) of post-discharge deaths occurred within three months and 45% of deaths occurred outside hospital. Post-discharge mortality was positively associated with weak pulse, tachypnoea, severe anaemia, HIV infection and severe wasting and negatively associated with malaria. Conclusions: Reasons for admissions are markedly different from those reported in under-fives. There was significant post-discharge mortality, suggesting hospitalisation is a marker of risk in this population. Our findings inform guideline development to include risk stratification, targeted post-discharge care and facilitate access to healthcare to improve survival in the early months post-discharge in school-aged children.
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Implications of gestational age at antenatal care attendance on the successful implementation of a maternal respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine program in coastal Kenya

BACKGROUND: Maternal immunisation to boost respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) specific antibodies in pregnant women is a strategy to enhance infant protection. The timing of maternal vaccination during pregnancy may be critical for its effectiveness. However, Kenya has no documented published data on gestational age distribution of pregnant women attending antenatal care (ANC), or the proportion of women attending ANC during the proposed window period for vaccination, to inform appropriate timing for delivery or estimate potential uptake of this vaccine. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was conducted within the Kilifi Health and Demographic Surveillance System (KHDSS), coastal Kenya. A simple random sample of 1000 women who had registered pregnant in 2017 to 2018 and with a birth outcome by the time of data collection was taken. The selected women were followed at their homes, and individually written informed consent was obtained. Records of their antenatal attendance during pregnancy were abstracted from their ANC booklet. The proportion of all pregnant women from KHDSS (55%) who attended for one or more ANC in 2018 was used to estimate vaccine coverage. RESULTS: Of the 1000 women selected, 935 were traced with 607/935 (64.9%) available for interview, among whom 470/607 (77.4%) had antenatal care booklets. The median maternal age during pregnancy was 28.6 years. The median (interquartile range) gestational age in weeks at the first to fifth ANC attendance was 26 (21-28), 29 (26-32), 32 (28-34), 34 (32-36) and 36 (34-38), respectively. The proportion of women attending for ANC during a gestational age window for vaccination of 28-32 weeks (recommended), 26-33 weeks and 24-36 weeks was 76.6% (360/470), 84.5% (397/470) and 96.2% (452/470), respectively. Estimated vaccine coverage was 42.1, 46.5 and 52.9% within the narrow, wide and wider gestational age windows, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: In a random sample of pregnant women from Kilifi HDSS, Coastal Kenya with card-confirmed ANC clinic attendance, 76.6% would be reached for maternal RSV vaccination within the gestational age window of 28-32 weeks. Widening the vaccination window (26-33 weeks) or (24-36 weeks) would not dramatically increase vaccine coverage and would require consideration of antibody kinetics data that could affect vaccine efficacy.
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Clustering of health risk behaviors among adolescents in Kilifi, Kenya, a rural Sub-Saharan African setting

BACKGROUND: Adolescents tend to experience heightened vulnerability to risky and reckless behavior. Adolescents living in rural settings may often experience poverty and a host of risk factors which can increase their vulnerability to various forms of health risk behavior (HRB). Understanding HRB clustering and its underlying factors among adolescents is important for intervention planning and health promotion. This study examines the co-occurrence of injury and violence, substance use, hygiene, physical activity, and diet-related risk behaviors among adolescents in a rural setting on the Kenyan coast. Specifically, the study objectives were to identify clusters of HRB; based on five categories of health risk behavior, and to identify the factors associated with HRB clustering. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was conducted of a random sample of 1060 adolescents aged 13-19 years living within the area covered by the Kilifi Health and Demographic Surveillance System. Participants completed a questionnaire on health behaviors which was administered via an Audio Computer-Assisted Self-Interview. Latent class analysis on 13 behavioral factors (injury and violence, hygiene, alcohol tobacco and drug use, physical activity, and dietary related behavior) was used to identify clustering and stepwise ordinal logistic regression with nonparametric bootstrapping identified the factors associated with clustering. The variables of age, sex, education level, school attendance, mental health, form of residence and level of parental monitoring were included in the initial stepwise regression model. RESULTS: We identified 3 behavioral clusters (Cluster 1: Low-risk takers (22.9%); Cluster 2: Moderate risk-takers (67.8%); Cluster 3: High risk-takers (9.3%)). Relative to the cluster 1, membership of higher risk clusters (i.e. moderate or high risk-takers) was strongly associated with older age (p<0.001), being male (p<0.001), depressive symptoms (p = 0.005), school non-attendance (p = 0.001) and a low level of parental monitoring (p<0.001). CONCLUSION: There is clustering of health risk behaviors that underlies communicable and non-communicable diseases among adolescents in rural coastal Kenya. This suggests the urgent need for targeted multi-component health behavior interventions that simultaneously address all aspects of adolescent health and well-being, including the mental health needs of adolescents.
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Malaria infection, disease and mortality among children and adults on the coast of Kenya

BACKGROUND: Malaria transmission has recently fallen in many parts of Africa, but systematic descriptions of infection and disease across all age groups are rare. Here, an epidemiological investigation of parasite prevalence, the incidence of fevers associated with infection, severe hospitalized disease and mortality among children older than 6 months and adults on the Kenyan coast is presented. METHODS: A prospective fever surveillance was undertaken at 6 out-patients (OPD) health-facilities between March 2018 and February 2019. Four community-based, cross sectional surveys of fever history and infection prevalence were completed among randomly selected homestead members from the same communities. Paediatric and adult malaria at Kilifi county hospital was obtained for the 12 months period. Rapid Diagnostic Tests (CareStart RDT) to detect HRP2-specific to Plasmodium falciparum was used in the community and the OPD, and microscopy in the hospital. Crude and age-specific incidence rates were computed using Poisson regression. RESULTS: Parasite prevalence gradually increased from childhood, reaching 12% by 9 years of age then declining through adolescence into adulthood. The incidence rate of RDT positivity in the OPD followed a similar trend to that of infection prevalence in the community. The incidence of hospitalized malaria from the same community was concentrated among children aged 6 months to 4 years (i.e. 64% and 70% of all hospitalized and severe malaria during the 12 months of surveillance, respectively). Only 3.7% (12/316) of deaths were directly attributable to malaria. Malaria mortality was highest among children aged 6 months-4 years at 0.57 per 1000 person-years (95% CI 0.2, 1.2). Severe malaria and death from malaria was negligible above 15 years of age. CONCLUSION: Under conditions of low transmission intensity, immunity to disease and the fatal consequences of infection appear to continue to be acquired in childhood and faster than anti-parasitic immunity. There was no evidence of an emerging significant burden of severe malaria or malaria mortality among adults. This is contrary to current modelled approaches to disease burden estimation in Africa and has important implications for the targeting of infection prevention strategies based on chemoprevention or vector control.
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Prolonged health worker strikes in Kenya- perspectives and experiences of frontline health managers and local communities in Kilifi County

BACKGROUND: While health worker strikes are experienced globally, the effects can be worst in countries with infrastructural and resource challenges, weak institutional arrangements, underdeveloped organizational ethics codes, and unaffordable alternative options for the poor. In Kenya, there have been a series of public health worker strikes in the post devolution period. We explored the perceptions and experiences of frontline health managers and community members of the 2017 prolonged health workers' strikes. METHODS: We employed an embedded research approach in one county in the Kenyan Coast. We collected in-depth qualitative data through informal observations, reflective meetings, individual and group interviews and document reviews (n = 5), and analysed the data using a thematic approach. Individual interviews were held with frontline health managers (n = 26), and group interviews with community representatives (4 health facility committee member groups, and 4 broader community representative groups). Interviews were held during and immediately after the nurses' strike. FINDINGS: In the face of major health facility and service closures and disruptions, frontline health managers enacted a range of strategies to keep key services open, but many strategies were piecemeal, inconsistent and difficult to sustain. Interviewees reported huge negative health and financial strike impacts on local communities, and especially the poor. There is limited evidence of improved health system preparedness to cope with any future strikes. CONCLUSION: Strikes cannot be seen in isolation of the prevailing policy and health systems context. The 2017 prolonged strikes highlight the underlying and longer-term frustration amongst public sector health workers in Kenya. The health system exhibited properties of complex adaptive systems that are interdependent and interactive. Reactive responses within the public system and the use of private healthcare led to limited continued activity through the strike, but were not sufficient to confer resilience to the shock of the prolonged strikes. To minimise the negative effects of strikes when they occur, careful monitoring and advanced planning is needed. Planning should aim to ensure that emergency and other essential services are maintained, threats between staff are minimized, health worker demands are reasonable, and that governments respect and honor agreements.
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Phenotype is sustained during hospital readmissions following treatment for complicated severe malnutrition among Kenyan children: A retrospective cohort study

Hospital readmission is common among children with complicated severe acute malnutrition (cSAM) but not well-characterised. Two distinct cSAM phenotypes, marasmus and kwashiorkor, exist, but their pathophysiology and whether the same phenotype persists at relapse are unclear. We aimed to test the association between cSAM phenotype at index admission and readmission following recovery. We performed secondary data analysis from a multicentre randomised trial in Kenya with 1-year active follow-up. The main outcome was cSAM phenotype upon hospital readmission. Among 1,704 HIV-negative children with cSAM discharged in the trial, 177 children contributed a total of 246 readmissions with cSAM. cSAM readmission was associated with age<12 months (p = .005), but not site, sex, season, nor cSAM phenotype. Of these, 42 children contributed 44 readmissions with cSAM that occurred after a monthly visit when SAM was confirmed absent (cSAM relapse). cSAM phenotype was sustained during cSAM relapse. The adjusted odds ratio for presenting with kwashiorkor during readmission after kwashiorkor at index admission was 39.3 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) [2.69, 1,326]; p = .01); and for presenting with marasmus during readmission after kwashiorkor at index admission was 0.02 (95% CI [0.001, 0.037]; p = .01). To validate this finding, we examined readmissions to Kilifi County Hospital, Kenya occurring at least 2 months after an admission with cSAM. Among 2,412 children with cSAM discharged alive, there were 206 readmissions with cSAM. Their phenotype at readmission was significantly influenced by their phenotype at index admission (p < .001). This is the first report describing the phenotype and rate of cSAM recurrence.
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