WHO is supporting Ghana’s Ministry of Health in response to an outbreak of a febrile illness in a boarding school The initial case was reported from Kumasi Academy High School (KASHS), Asokore Mampong Municipal, Kumasi on 29 November 2017
The Ashanti Regional Health Directorate notified the Public Health Directorate of the Ghana Health Service on 1 December 2017 about the death of two students at the school, and WHO was soon informed. Common symptoms, amongst students, included fever, headache and body pains. Other symptoms found in some patients included neck stiffness, cough and sore throat. More than 95% of the cases were teenagers.
In April 2017, the school was the site of a meningitis outbreak, and given the symptoms meningitis was suspected again, however, laboratory results confirmed that the majority of infections were due to influenza A (H1N1) pdm09. However samples from the fatal cases are still under investigation. Further testing of the influenza A(H1N1) pdm09 is underway in a WHO Collaborating Centre for influenza to understand if the virus has changed.
“With around 2800 students at the high school, we were very concerned that this outbreak could quickly spread to the larger community in Kumasi and beyond,” said Dr Owen Kaluwa, WHO Country Representative for Ghana“. WHO worked quickly to support the Government in helping to control this outbreak.
WHO joined a multidisciplinary national team dispatched to support the Ashanti Regional Health Directorate to conduct investigations into the possible cause(s) of the outbreak. The team was also tasked with developing the appropriate response.
WHO support has included supplying 5000 doses of antivirals and 10 000 doses of flu vaccines. WHO also offered technical guidance on case management for influenza A (H1N1), and supports further laboratory investigations.
WHO continues to develop and share health messages with the school and neighbouring communities about preventing and controlling influenza.
“Our response actions have been rapid and effective; and the situation is being contained,” Dr Kaluwa said. “We hope that the students will be able to recover from this outbreak by the time schools re-open in January 2018.”
This event reminds us that seasonal influenza is a serious public health problem. Although most people infected by seasonal influenza recover from fever and other symptoms within a week without requiring medical attention, influenza can cause severe illness or death especially in people at high risk.