Author(s): Centers for Disease Control an
In May 2004, CDC Kenya, trainees of the CDC-supported Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP) in Kenya, the World Health Organization, and CDC were invited by the Kenya Ministry of Health (KMOH) to participate in the investigation of an outbreak of jaundice with a high case-fatality rate (CFR) in the districts of Makueni and Kitui, Eastern Province. Preliminary laboratory testing of food collected from the affected area revealed high levels of aflatoxin, suggesting that the outbreak was caused by aflatoxin poisoning, as was a previous outbreak in the same area in 1981. In the United States, aflatoxin concentrations are limited to 20 parts per billion (ppb), a level also adopted by Kenyan authorities. The 2004 outbreak resulted from widespread aflatoxin contamination of locally grown maize, which occurred during storage of the maize under damp conditions. Urgent replacement of the aflatoxin-contaminated maize with noncontaminated maize proved to be a critical intervention; however, as of July 21, a limited number of new cases continued to be detected. This report summarizes the preliminary results of the outbreak investigation. Aflatoxin poisoning likely will continue to be a public health problem until culturally appropriate storage methods for dry maize are implemented by the local population. In addition, enhanced surveillance for human aflatoxin poisoning and testing of commercially sold maize for aflatoxin levels will lead to long-term improvements in public health.