She was on her official day-off, she planned to relax at home and catch up with her children but then she heard that a medical team was coming to test in-mates and staff of tuberculosis. She abandoned her initial idea and reported to Siaya Prison.
32 year old Maria is one of the few female wardens at the correctional facility based in Siaya County. She had been coughing and experiencing chest pains. She had gone to a nearby pharmacy and bought some septrin tablets which she took for a week or so.
Her condition did not get any better and she had trouble sleeping citing discomfort and experiencing night sweats. “I used to cough so much and sweat a lot at night just like a work mate of mine who was once diagnosed with TB,” she says.
A month before this day she had visited a clinic within town and later on was referred to a government facility where she was diagnosed with pneumonia and started on antibiotics. The mother of two notes that though she had a slight improvement after taking the antibiotics, she was still worried at the slow progress of her recovery.
The team of medics from KMET TB Reach program in collaboration with the Ministry of health officials in Siaya camped at the facility for three days talking to staff and inmates about tuberculosis infection, management and prevention as well as screening them for the infection.
Maria willingly accepted to be screened for TB on the first day since she wanted to ensure whatever was ailing her was not TB. She did not wish to infect her family, especially her six months old baby having learnt that it is an airborne disease.
She was scheduled for tuberculosis tests. The results came the following day and unfortunately her fears were confirmed; the tests were positive.
To ascertain that the family was safe, Maria’s husband and two children were requested to come for Tb screening and tests to ensure they had not contracted TB too. The tests were negative
Maria was started on anti TBs and her six months baby was put on drugs too in a bid to reduce chances of the baby contracting TB from the mother.
Maria had been misdiagnosed and was on the wrong drugs for a month. Denis Nyaoko, the KMET TB-reach program coordinator confirms that there are other diseases with similar symptoms as TB such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or influenza.
In Kenya Approximately 3 million cases go undetected each year and the country is ranked 15th among the 22 high burden countries that collectively contribute about 80% of the world’s TB cases.
Denis says they are taking services to people in prisons and even slums ‘key population’ since their environment make them to be at high risk of TB infection and due to lack of information as well as misconceptions about TB, rarely take the initiative to walk into a facility for screening until it is late.
He adds that a well aerated environment is key in preventing TB infection, yet it is one thing that the people within the key population group find a luxury too expensive to afford.
By Dennis Nyaoko.