By Benjamin Omoike
Eighty-nine students of Queens College, Yaba, Lagos are suspected to present symptoms associated with influenza, investigation by the Lagos State government indicates.
Students of some schools in the state are also feared to be at risk of the infection.
Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who disclosed this on Tuesday, said an investigative team comprising officials of the State Epidemiology Team, Primary Health Care Services and Environmental Health Department of Lagos Mainland Local Government was set up by the Ministry and dispatched to unravel the cause of the illnesses.
Influenza, also called flu, is a contagious respiratory illness. It is caused by a species of viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs, and can be treated with vaccine taken yearly.
Abayomi explained that the surveillance team 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 Queens College and investigations are ongoing. Findings, according to the review of health records in the school sick bay, revealed that 89 students attended the clinic with Influenza-like illnesses,” he said.
He added that a walk-through inspection to other facilities in the school revealed that environmental sanitation and water supply are optimal but could be improved, noting also that the incident is not an outbreak of any sort but an excessive number of reported cases that need to be investigated.
Abayomi revealed that nasal swab samples will 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 Queens College, other affected schools and residents ofLagos State to remain calm and ensure strict adherence to personal and environmental hygiene at all times,” Abayomi said.
He assured that the situation is under control and seems to be on the decline, assuring that government “will give necessary updates as the assessment and investigation progresses.”
The Commissioner advised all Schools in Lagos to adopt basic precautionary measures against diseases and illnesses by teaching and ensuring good health practices, promoting personal hygiene and providing adequate handwashing points within the school premises.
“They must also commence and continue to raise awareness about respiratory etiquette, hold food handlers and vendors to the highest health and hygiene check protocols as stipulated in the law, and practised world over,” the Commissioner emphasised.
Abayomi further advised that high standards of sanitation within the school and its surroundings should be ensured and maintained, stressing the need for pupils to avoid sharing personal items such as spoons, handkerchiefs, toothbrushes etc.
“School management must ensure conspicuous display of posters with health messages around the school premises and commence daily announcements with reminders about preventing the spread of germs and need for frequent hand washing,” Abayomi advised.
Speaking further, the Commissioner advised parents not to send their children to school if they have features of an upper respiratory tract infection such as cold or flu-like symptoms but rather have a doctor review them.
He appealed to School authorities as well as citizens to report suspected case(s) of any strange illnesses and diseases to the nearest Public Health Facility or the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) in their Local Government Area or to the Directorate of Disease Control in the Ministry of Health, through the following lines: 08023169485, 08023377487.
“As a responsible and responsive government we will not relent in our resolve to ensure a disease-free State and a healthy citizenry in line with the present administration’s T.H.E.M.E.S mandate,” the Commissioner assured.