IN SHORT: A graphic shared on social media in Kenya attributes a number of problematic claims to the country’s largest selling daily newspaper. But the graphic is a fabrication and was not published by the Nation.
A “breaking news” graphic claims that a drug resistant strain of gonorrhoea is “currently ravaging” the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
Gonorrhoea is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. It is characterised by inflammation of the mucous membranes of the genital tract and urethra.
According to the graphic, the strain was “isolated” by Kenyan scientists and predominantly affects more women than men, “raising concerns over promiscuity among local women”.
It adds: “Ministry of health planning to enforce medical certificate for foreigners entering Kenya. Doctors warn of tough days ahead since condoms are not helpful. Seminal fluids, saliva, sweat all carry the bacteria.”
The graphic has the branding of the website of the Daily Nation, the country’s biggest selling newspaper, making it appear authentic.
This graphic has been posted here, here, here, here, here, here and here. But did the Daily Nation publish it?
Super gonorrhoea emerged worldwide in past decade
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), gonorrhoea that is resistant to currently recommended treatments is called a gonorrhoea superbug or super gonorrhoea.
Failure to cure the infection with the recommended antibiotics was first reported in Japan. Since 2012, more cases have been reported in Australia, France, Japan, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The WHO says the reasons for the rise of resistant gonorrhoea include unrestricted access to antimicrobials, inappropriate use of antibiotics and genetic mutation.
Kenyan media recently carried headlines such as “Super gonorrhoea strikes Nairobians”.
Asked about the reports, Dr Patrick Amoth, the acting director general of health, said they stemmed from a Kenya Medical Research Institute study involving sex workers.
Researchers found someone with a gonorrhoea pathogen that was “resistant to all the antibiotics we put it through”. The research institute was reviewing this finding, but Amoth said resistant gonorrhoea was not specific to Kenya, and gave the examples of Japan and the UK.
The super gonorrhoea reports also came on the back of a major new health survey that found women in Kenya have an average of two sexual partners in their lifetime, while men have seven.
Graphic not published by newspaper
Even in Kenya, where patriarchal sexist attitudes are widespread, a newspaper of national standing would be unlikely to report that a study raises “concerns over promiscuity among local women”.
Furthermore, the new data shows Kenyan men have significantly more sexual partners, on average, than women.
It would also be impractical to demand a medical certificate from foreigners entering Kenya, or any other country, on account of a sexually transmitted infection.
The comments in the graphic are attributed to Dr Jackson Kioko, the director of medical services at the health ministry.
But gonorrhoea is not known to be spread through sweat. As a doctor, Kioko would be expected to be aware of this, and is highly unlikely to have made this statement.
Through its official Facebook account the Daily Nation disowned the circulating graphic.
“FAKE NEWS ALERT! Please be advised that this card doing rounds on social media is fake. #FakeNewsAlert.”