The Lagos State Government on Tuesday confirmed the reported outbreak of air-borne, flu-like illnesses among pupils of Queen’s College.
The government said that preliminary investigations revealed “a sporadic increase in upper respiratory tract infection, characterised by cough, catarrh, fever and weakness.”
The government said it was also investigating other schools in the state.
In a statement on Tuesday, the state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said a team comprising officials of the state epidemiology team, primary healthcare services and environmental health department of Lagos Mainland Local Government was dispatched to unravel the cause of the pupils’ illnesses.
Abayomi, while reviewing preliminary reports of the investigations conducted by the team, explained that the surveillance team identified “a sporadic increase in upper respiratory tract infection,” characterised by cough, catarrh, fever and weakness.”
He noted, “The team has since visited Queen’s College and investigations are ongoing.
“Findings, according to the review of health records in the school’s sickbay, revealed that 89 students presented to the clinic with influenza-like illnesses.”
He added that an inspection of other facilities in the school revealed that environmental sanitation and water supply were optimal, but could be improved on.
The commissioner noted that the incidence was not an outbreak, but the “excess number of cases needed to be investigated.”
Abayomi said nasal swab samples would be collected from pupils for confirmation of the cause of the illness.
“As we await a comprehensive report of the investigation being conducted, I would like to appeal to stakeholders of Queen’s College, other affected schools and residents of Lagos State to remain calm and ensure strict adherence to personal and environmental hygiene at all times.
“I assure you that the situation is under control and seems to be subsiding.
“We will give necessary updates as the assessment and investigation progresses,” the commissioner added.
He urged parents not to send their children to school if they had features of upper respiratory tract infection such as cold or flu-like symptoms, adding that a doctor must review them.
Abayomi advised schools in the state to adopt precautionary measures against diseases and illnesses by ensuring good hand-washing practices and personal hygiene.
“They must also commence and continue to raise awareness about respiratory etiquette such as covering of mouth with clean hands or handkerchiefs when coughing or sneezing and washing hands immediately after.
“The school management must also hold food handlers and vendors to the highest health and hygiene check protocols as stipulated in the law, and practised world over,” the commissioner added.
He advised that high standards of sanitation within the school and its surroundings should be maintained.
Abayomi also stressed the need for pupils to avoid sharing personal items, including spoons, handkerchiefs, toothbrushes, among others.
“Schools management must ensure conspicuous display of posters with health messages around their premises and commence daily announcements and reminders about preventing the spread of germs and the need for frequent hand washing.
“They should adopt healthy practices, such as safe handling of food and the use of standard precautions when handling body fluids and excretions and equip school sickbays to handle infections and other emergencies, with a clear report and escalation protocol”, he stated.
The commissioner, while responding to a question from The PUNCH on the number of pupils affected by the incident, said, “89 presented themselves at the clinic, while others left on their own volition.”
Meanwhile, the Queen’s College Old Girls Association on Tuesday said it had looked into the case, adding that the result of its investigation revealed that only two pupils were in the college’s sick bay as of September 30, 2019.
It noted that its findings revealed that the illness had no correlation with any water-related epidemic.
The Parent-Teacher-Association Chairman, John Oforbike, had said no fewer than 1,000 pupils were sent home on account of the sickness.
But a former President of the Old Girls Association, Frances Ajose, had said it was blackmail.
In a statement signed by the General Secretary of the association, Ayomide Onakoya, the group said 85 pupils were sent home.
The statement read, “A review of the register provided by the external medical doctor who consults for the school showed that as of September 30, 2019, a total of 85 girls had been sent home since Queen’s College resumed on September 14, 15 and 21.
“The first cases came in on September 24 and 25. Of the 85 girls sent home, 24 have returned to school.
“The symptoms observed and common to all the students taken to the sick bay include cough, runny nose and fever; some were low-grade, and some ran high; indications of upper respiratory tract infection.
“There were no gastrointestinal symptoms and nothing to suggest that the conditions are related to anything in the water or in the food.”
The statement added that the Old Girls’Association awaited the state government’s findings.
“The Lagos State Ministry of Health Disease Surveillance team also visited the school for their own investigation and are in a position to confirm the actual situation at September 30, 2019.
“The state team consisted of about 10 personnel: all professionals from the Lagos State Ministry of Health Epidemiology Department, Disease Surveillance Notification and Environmental Health Department of the Yaba Local Council Development Area.
“We look forward to receiving their report,” the statement said.
Source: The Punch