Allen School Program Detects Disease Symptoms in Kenyan Communities
Dr. Susan Noh (far left), research pathologist with the CVM and USDA Animal Disease Research Unit, and Dr. Guy Palmer (far right), Allen School director with CDC/KEMRI Project Head, Dr. Kariuki Njenga (front) and epidemiologist Dr. Peninah Munyua, in Kenya.
Dr. Susan Noh (far left), research pathologist with the CVM and
USDA Animal Disease Research Unit, and Dr. Guy Palmer
(far right), Allen School director with CDC/KEMRI Project Head,
Dr. Kariuki Njenga (front) and epidemiologist
Dr. Peninah Munyua, in Kenya.

The Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health has teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Nairobi to conduct a wide-scale survey on animal disease in the Nyanza Province of western Kenya. Together with questions regarding human symptoms, community interviewers will ask up to 6000 families if their animals also show symptoms of disease or illness.

In Kenya, where animals outnumber humans by more than 20 million, people and animals live close together, which puts them at a greater risk of contracting an infectious disease from their animals, known as zoonosis. Zoonotic disease may cause diarrhea, fever, or other potentially life-threatening symptoms in people. And because the livelihood of these families depends on healthy livestock, controlling animal disease is also essential for their overall welfare.

"The thing that drives us is to understand what animal diseases have the greatest impact on human health and household welfare," said Dr. Terry McElwain, Allen School professor and associate director. "That will direct informed decisions as to where to invest and intervene."

Data from this study will help policymakers set health priorities and decide where resources should be used to do the most good.

In the Nyanza Province of western Kenya, which borders Lake Victoria, families live on less than US$2 a day and rely on their animals for food and their livelihoods. Community interviewers will visit up to 6000 participating households, roughly 27,000 people, every one to two weeks to ask about various symptoms the animals may have such as diarrhea, cough, or difficulty breathing.

If an animal is sick, an animal health team, made up of a veterinarian and two animal health technicians, will provide care to the animals to relieve symptoms or refer them to a veterinary officer. The animal health team will also follow up by taking samples and asking more questions about the symptoms.

In addition to medical information, WSU Economists Tom Marsh and Jon Yoder will survey a smaller number of families each quarter to measure the economic impact of animal disease and death. Together the medical and economic information will give a better understanding of overall health and household welfare in these communities.

"Our focus is on human health," said McElwain. "And our definition of health is similar to the World Health Organizations'. Health is not just the absence of illness-it is a complete state of physical, social, and economic well being."


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