Covid-19: Kenya to Use Japanese Flu Drug for Treatment
The drug has been used for years in Japan to treat influenza
Kenya plans to start using a flu drug developed in Japan to treat coronavirus.
Acting Director of Health Patrick Amoth said the government was in discussion with Japan to receive batches of the antiviral drug, called Favipiravir or Avigan.
The drug has been used for years in Japan to treat influenza and, last month, it was approved as an experimental treatment for Covid-19.
"We are in discussion with the government of Japan who have developed an antiviral which has shown very good promise, so that we can get some doses that our physicians can also be able to try for Covid-19. And we are hopeful that we will also tell our results like what they have done in Japan and China," Amoth told journalists yesterday.
Favipiravir was originally developed to treat influenza by Toyama Chemical, which is owned by Fujifilm, the Japanese photography company that now has sizable holdings in biomedicine.
Other countries receiving the drug include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Iran, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, with an additional 30 countries showing interest, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday.
"We will work with interested countries to expand clinical research on Avigan internationally," the Japanese Kyodo News agency quoted him as saying.
A 2018 paper by Belgian scientists published in Elsevier journal suggested that Favipiravir might be developed as a broad spectrum antiviral against “neglected and emerging RNA viruses,” like coronaviruses.
Even as Japan has allowed off-label use of the drug against Covid-19, the manufacturers have been careful not to trumpet the effects of their drug because it is unclear on what level of severity the drug will work.
They say it appears to work better on people who have lower levels of the novel coronavirus in their system.
On Wednesday, Amoth said most Kenyans with coronavirus have very mild infection.
Yesterday, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the government had started closing quarantine facilities that were hosting people under mandatory quarantine.
The country recorded its seventh death yesterday. Kagwe said the person who passed away in Mombasa died soon after presenting to the hospital for other medical cases.
The postmortem conducted on the body later confirmed the deceased was also Covid-19 positive.
On a positive note, four more people were released from isolation centres after they turned negative, making the number of recoveries in the country to jump to 12.
Some of the quarantine facilities closed by yesterday evening include Trade Mark Hotel in Gigiri, the Hill Park Hotel, Panari Hotel, KMTC Karen and Lantana Hotel located in Westlands.
The government predicts that all the quarantine facilities will be closed before the end of the week.
“In this regard, we are kindly appealing to fellow Kenyans to warmly receive those of us that were in those facilities who have since been released to go home. There should be no stigmitisation of anybody,” Kagwe said.
“We will continue to close these centres because we no longer need to keep them open.”
Initially, the government had extended the quarantine period in some of the facilities by 14 days on claims that those quarantined there had gone against the rules that include social distancing, even throwing parties.
Some of the facilities affected include Pride Inn. Those affected have written a demand letter to the ministry for their unconditional release.
“We must not lose sight even as we begin this journey; even as we see the challenges ahead we must not lose sight of how well our citizens are supporting these measures. The danger still remains because of those who are not adhering to these instructions,” Kagwe said.
Director General at the ministry Patrick Amoth said the testing will however start in the next 10 days, with those who turn negative being allowed to go home and continue with self-quarantine in collaboration with the county government management teams.
The number of positive cases in the country now stands at 184. An additional five cases turned positive out of 308 samples tested in 24 hours. The five were aged between 39 to 77 years, two women and three men.
Three are Kenyans while two are foreign nationals. One of the cases was picked from mandatory quarantine while the other four were from the contact tracing.
Three have a travel history: one from Tanzania, one from the UK and one from the United Arab Emirates. Three of the cases are in Nairobi while two are from Mombasa County.
As at yesterday, 2046 contacts had been monitored, 1,448 discharged after completing the 14 days mandatory quarantine period while 598 are being monitored.
In terms of age break down, three out of the 184 are below 15 years, 49 between 15 and 29, 119 between 30 and 59 and 13 aged above 60.
Kagwe said even though more gains are expected in the coming days, there is need for more vigilance.