The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, says that the state has commenced an investigation into the outbreak of an air-borne -flu-like illness among some of the students of Queen’s College and other schools in the state.
Abayomi also told newsmen on Tuesday that an investigative team had been set up by the Ministry and dispatched to various schools in the state to unravel the cause of the illness.
He said that the team comprises officials from the State Epidemiology team, Primary Health Care Services and Environmental Health Department of Lagos Mainland Local Government.
Abayomi said that the preliminary reports from the investigations conducted by the team had identified what appears to be a sporadic increase in upper respiratory tract infections characterised by cough, catarrh, fever and weakness across some schools.
“The team has since visited Queen’s College and investigations are ongoing. Findings according to the review of health records in the school’s sick bay revealed that 89 students presented to the clinic with Influenza-like illnesses,” he said.
He added that an inspection to other facilities in the school revealed that environmental sanitation and water supply are optimal but could be improved upon.
The commissioner noted that the incidences were not an outbreak of any sort but an excess number of cases that needed to be investigated.
Abayomi also said that nasal swab samples would be collected from the pupils for confirmation of the cause of the illness.
“As we await the comprehensive report of the investigation being conducted, I will like to appeal to the 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 it seems to be subsiding. We will give necessary updates as the assessment and investigation progress,” Abayomi said.
He advised all schools in the state, either day or boarding, to adopt basic precautionary measures against diseases and illnesses by teaching and ensuring good hand washing practice.
He also advised them to promote personal hygiene and provide adequate hand washing points within the school premises.
“They must also commence and continue to raise awareness about respiratory etiquette such as covering of mouth with clean hands or handkerchief when coughing or sneezing, and washing hands immediately after.
“School management must also hold food handlers and vendors to the highest health and hygiene check protocols as stipulated in the law, and practised worldwide,” the Commissioner said.
Abayomi also advised school authorities to ensure that high standards of sanitation within the schools and their surroundings should be maintained.
He said that there was the need for pupils to avoid sharing personal items such as spoons, handkerchiefs, toothbrushes with one another .
“School managements must ensure conspicuous display of posters with health messages around their school premises and commence daily announcements and reminders about preventing the spread of germs and 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.
“They should also equip school sickbays to be able to handle infections and other emergencies, with a clear report and escalation protocol,” he said.
He encouraged school managements to carry out simulations and drills regularly, adding that this would enhance emergency preparedness.
“To parents, please do not send your children to school if they have features of an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold or flu like symptoms, but rather have your doctor review them,” he said.
He appealed to school authorities as well as citizens to report suspected cases of any strange illnesses and diseases to the nearest public health facility or the medical officers of health in their local government areas.
The commissioner said that reports should also be sent to the Directorate of Disease Control in the Ministry of Health through the following lines: 08023169485 and 08023377487.
Abayomi stressed that as a responsible and responsive government,it would not relent in its efforts to ensure a disease free state and a healthy citizenry in line with the present administration’s THEMES mandate.