Preventing spread of disease in Kenya

In Kenya, 42 percent1 of the population falls below the poverty line. Lack of health care among the impoverished increases the risk of hard-to-control disease outbreaks. Understanding and preventing infectious disease threats among vulnerable populations in rural and urban settings is important to global health security.

Kariuki Njenga addresses these challenges using a “One Health” approach, which recognizes that human health is connected to the health of animals and the environment. With a $3.4 million, five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Njenga conducts investigations that aim to combat major health challenges in Kenya, including zoonotic diseases that travel from animals to humans.

Launching vaccination programs

Dr. Njenga leads the CDC’s One Health Program at the Kenya Medical Research Institute. As part of the current CDC grant, he explores vaccines for diseases that the CDC has monitored and deemed troublesome for vulnerable populations in Western Kenya.

Keeping watch for Zika virus

Dr. Njenga is also investigating the presence of Zika virus in East Africa. He tracks the health of pregnant women in two different regions to watch for emergence of the disease.

Monitoring livestock for disease

With another CDC grant, now in its second year, Dr. Njenga has created the first-ever systematic livestock disease surveillance program in Kenya. Information gathered informs further research and interventions that detect and stop zoonotic diseases.

Dr. Njenga is one of several researchers from WSU’s Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health who are based in Africa. These experts collaborate with local health organizations and governments to anticipate and foil emerging infectious disease threats.

1. unicef.org/kenya/overview_4616.html