By Chioma Obinna
The Lagos State government began an investigation into the alleged outbreak of airborne flu-like illness among students of Queens College and other schools across the State.
The State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi also disclosed that an investigative team comprising of officials of State Epidemiology team, Primary Health Care Services and Environmental Health Department of Lagos Mainland Local Government has been set up by the Ministry and dispatched to unravel the cause of the illnesses.
Meanwhile, the state has 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 call the Directorate of Disease Control in the Ministry of Health on 08023169485,08023377487
Reviewing the preliminary reports of the investigations by the team, Abayomi explained that the surveillance team identified what appears to be a sporadic increase in upper respiratory tract infections characterized by cough, catarrh, fever, and weakness across some schools.
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“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 presented to the clinic with Influenza-like illnesses.”
The Commissioner noted that the incidence was not an outbreak of any sort but there is an excess number of cases that needed to be investigated, adding 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 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”, Abayomi said.
He advised all Schools in Lagos either day or boarding to adopt basic precautionary measures against diseases and illnesses by teaching and ensuring good handwashing 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 such as covering of mouth with clean hands or handkerchiefs 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 the practiced world over”, the Commissioner posited.
Abayomi further advised that high standards of sanitation within the school and its surroundings should be ensured and maintain. He stressed the need for pupils to avoid sharing personal items such as spoons, handkerchiefs, toothbrushes amongst others.
“School management must ensure the conspicuous display of posters with health messages around the school 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.
Abayomi advised parents not to send their children to school if they have features of an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold or flu-like symptom but rather have them checked by a doctor.