The report of an infection at Queens College, Lagos last week unnerved many Nigerians, especially parents of the college’s students. The latest incident occurred just two weeks after the students resumed for a fresh academic session, and it came barely two years after a similar incident in the same school..
Though the school’s management did not immediately speak on the issue, reports quoting the Chairman of the Parents Teacher Association, John Ofobike, said about 1,000 students of the college, located in Yaba area of Lagos State, had been taken home by their parents following the outbreak. He was quoted in one report to have said, “It is over 1,000 students now as we speak. See, I cannot talk about what I don’t know. What you have in your palm, you don’t need a mirror to look at it”.
Queen College’s sickbay was said to be overflowing with patients. The report caused apprehension as it did two years ago, when three students of the college died from water-borne infections. However, the recent situation became clearer with the Lagos State government launching an investigation into the matter. LASG said the issue was not restricted to Queens College. The state Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, said an investigative team comprising officials of the state Epidemiology team, Primary Health Care Services and Environmental Health Department of Lagos Mainland Local Government had been set up and dispatched to unravel the cause of the illnesses.
While reviewing investigation team’s preliminary report, the Health Commissioner said 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. He said, “The team has since visited Queens College and investigations are on-going. 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. A walk-through inspection to other facilities in the school revealed that environmental sanitation and water supply are optimal but could be improved. There is no outbreak of any sort but excess number of cases that needed to be investigated.”
Abayomi further said nasal swab samples would be collected from the students. “As we await 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.” The fact that this is not the first time Queens College is recording such a scare is an indication that something is wrong somewhere. This current situation should prompt a holistic look at the institution’s infrastructure. The school, being one of the oldest public educational institutions in the country, hosts a very large number of students. Nothing should therefore be left to chance.
Infrastructure should be improved upon, having in mind the school’s population. Furthermore, a thorough investigation should be carried out to ensure that the entire chain of interaction with the students and instruments they deal with on a daily basis are up to standard. The school clinic should also be upgraded with necessary drugs and equipment to ensure that it is able to handle delicate issues quickly to avoid spread, especially in the case of communicable diseases.
While the federal government is addressing the issue with Queens College, the Lagos State government should also look at the state of its public school, since the recent outbreak also extended to other institutions. The population in Lagos is huge and that is also reflected in the number of students in its schools. Authourities should ensure that basic hygienic practices are adhered to at all times. Inspectors should pay regular visits to schools. Also there should be massive campaign on regular hand-washing, use of sanitisers and disinfectants among others. Other states should also not fold their arms until they have similar outbreaks on their hands.