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Chickens, snails and earthworms – Daily Nation





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Some seemingly harmless creatures on your farm will often spring surprises when it comes diseases or even the death of your livestock.

Today, I narrate an enquiry from Mbinji of Vihiga County. He narrated on phone that he has been seeing his mother’s rural free-range chicken happily eat garden snails.

However, the chickens later cough endlessly, sneeze, squeak, gape and die. Sometimes they gape and struggle to breathe before they die.

His concern was what could be the relationship between eating snails and the consequent fate of the chickens.

This enquiry took me many years back. I remembered as a small boy growing up on our farm in Murang’a that we had a lot of free-range chickens that were very tasty when well-cooked.

The chickens fed on snails, dung beetles, insects and earthworms in addition to plant matter. Frogs and toads were also on their menu.

Some of our chicken would develop the same condition Mbinji observed. My father believed that dead animals are toxic to humans and eating them was unreligious.

He would quickly slaughter the birds before they made their last kick and we enjoyed eating them. One thing he always insisted was the birds slaughtered because of sickness could only be cooked through boiling.

He believed the birds died of toxins from snails and beetles but those chemicals would be destroyed by boiling.

I only got to understand the mystery of the snails, the earthworms and the gaping chicken when Prof Maingi taught us parasitology in our second year at the university.

“Such chickens will show a symptomatology of open mouth breathing, gaping, difficulties in breathing and often death if not treated. The disease is not known to affect humans,” said the professor with a tone of finality.

I smiled as I took the notes, knowing that my dad’s generosity with sick chicken had not jeopardised our family health.
Gaping is the opening of the mouth continuously.

From Mbinji’s description, the symptomatology or group of symptoms observed highly indicate his mother’s chickens suffer from infestation with gape worms.


The worm is scientifically called Syngamus trachea and the disease is commonly called gapes.

The gape worm is a roundworm that affects wild birds, chickens and turkeys. It is transmitted mainly by snails, slugs, earthworms, and grasshoppers.

Other invertebrates like beetles may also transmit it. These are called the worm’s intermediate hosts. Gape worms can remain active as cysts in the muscles of the earthworm for up to three years.

Chickens mainly get infected by swallowing the larval stage of the worm carried in the intermediate host. The larva hatch in the chicken intestines, burrow into the body and migrate to the lungs where they settle for the rest of their life in the airways of the bronchi and trachea.

The worms live in permanent mating and form a characteristic Y shape visible without the use of instruments. This earns them the pseudonym, “the forked worm”.

The male worm is permanently attached in one location of the trachea and bronchi while the female detaches from time to time to select good feeding locations. The gape worm has a characteristic red colour and is thus also called the red tracheal worm.


Once settled in the airways, the worms feed on mucous and blood and lay eggs that are coughed up and swallowed by the bird.

The eggs come out in the bird’s droppings and are eaten by the intermediate host such as an earthworm or snail. The larva of the worm hatch in the host, burrow into the muscles and form cysts awaiting consumption by the chickens to continue with the life cycle. It takes about 1-2 weeks after infection for the signs of gapes to start showing.

Gape worms in the airways cause direct blockage to breathing and the production of lots of mucous due to inflammation on the attachment site.

As the number of worms increase, the airways get clogged making it difficult for the bird to breathe. This is the cause of the coughing, gaping, gasping and head shaking seen in affected birds.

Worms migrating through the lungs may also cause severe pneumonia. The chickens in most cases suffocate and die.

Birds with fewer worms will show long-standing coughing, weight loss and poor growth. Young birds are more affected than the older ones.

Older birds may live with the worms without symptoms but keep contaminating the environment and infecting other birds. Turkeys are more resistant to the worms but when raised among chicken, can be the worm reservoir.

Gapes is diagnosed by clinical examination and confirmed by a postmortem. The doctor will find the Y-shaped red worms in the trachea and bronchi.

Examining the droppings of affected birds under the microscope may also show presence of the characteristic worm eggs.

Should you slaughter a chicken at home, always slit the trachea open down to the bronchi and see if there are red Y-shaped worms attached to the tracheal lining.

The common practice of rearing chicken in confinement has greatly reduced the occurrence of gape worm in poultry.

However, in chicken houses where wild birds and the intermediate hosts have access, gape worms may still be found in confined poultry.

There are a number of dewormers available for treatment of gape worm in its early stages before the physical blockage of the trachea and bronchi occurs.

Incidence of the disease in Kenya, however, appears low or under-reported. When writing this article, I only found one veterinarian who told me he had encountered the disease in Vihiga in 1990.

Should any farmer or reader come across the disease, they may contact me via email or mobile 0721386871. It would be interesting to know how widespread the problem is among free-range chickens in the country.


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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard




Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.


However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard




President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health




Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.


Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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