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Kenya Hospital Quarantines Student with Coronavirus-like Symptoms

FILE - Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport near Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 6, 2019.
FILE - Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport near Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 6, 2019.

A student who arrived in Kenya from China Tuesday has been quarantined in Nairobi after exhibiting coronavirus-like symptoms. Kenya Airways, the airline that the patient flew, said the decision to quarantine him was made by health authorities at Nairobi's Jommo Kenyatta International Airport.

A Kenyan student who returned home from China Tuesday is currently being held in an isolation ward at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). There are fears he may have been infected with the deadly coronavirus that has claimed more than 100 lives in China.

Kenya Airways released a statement Tuesday saying the passenger was given clearance to fly by Chinese health authorities at Guangzhou Airport.

But upon arriving in Nairobi, Kenyan health authorities decided to quarantine the traveler, who exhibited coronavirus-like symptoms. The decision, they said, was a precautionary measure.

As China scrambles to contain the virus, countries in Africa and around the world are on high alert.

Dr. John Nkengasong, Africa Director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said the virus may have already made its way to Africa.

"It is very possible that we have cases that are going on in the continent, that have not been recognized, we have to admit that," he said. "We cannot certainly be so fortunate that so far we do not have cases in Africa but we have it all over the world. So we have to admit that there are certain things we do not know."

He said there may be false rumors of suspected cases because the initial coronavirus symptoms are similar to those of a common cold, such as fever and coughing.

Nkengasong said the virus will present "a test case" of Africa Union members' health surveillance systems.

"The surveillance system is as good as the health system in member states, and we all know that we are at very different levels of strength in the member states," he said. "Some countries have very strong surveillance systems, some have weak surveillance systems and some we are working with them to strengthen their systems there."

Suspected coronavirus cases have also been reported in Ethiopia and Ivory Coast.

In Nairobi Tuesday, Kenyans such as Moffat Maina waited to hear the status of the student who was quarantined.

"The issue concerning the coronavirus is an issue not only for the Ministry of Health but for all Kenyans to have that safety," he said. "Wherever we are, we have to report if there are any signs, you don’t have to panic but report it immediately to the relevant authorities so that they can counter it and control it.”

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals. Some strains of the virus can infect humans.

So far, the death rate of those infected with the Wuhan coronavirus is about 2 percent.