Cabinet Secretary for Health Susan Nakhumicha Wafula has confirmed that a disease outbreak at Sacred Heart Mukumu Girls in Kakamega that led to death of two students could have been as a result of contamination of water and food.
The CS said preliminary investigations from samples sent to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) laboratory in Kisumu tested positive for bacterial infections linked to gastroenteritis (a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea and vomiting).
She said some students had been infected with salmonella typhii (a bacteria that causes typhoid) and amebiasis (a parasitic infection of the intestines that causes stomach pain and diarrhoea). Many learners at both schools had complained of diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.
The CS, who was accompanied by Principal Secretary Ministry of Education Dr. Belio Kipsang however ruled out an outbreak of cholera based on the preliminary findings.
Also affected were students from Butere Boys where students also experienced vomiting. Both Mukumu Girls and Butere Boys have been closed but the officials said they will be reopened immediately after the Easter holidays.
“We have taken more samples of food and water to the Government Chemist in Kisumu and to the National Public Health laboratories in Nairobi for further investigation,” she added.
The officials, who made an extensive tour of the school and the main storage reservoir at a stream from where the water is pumped from suspect contamination at source.
The CS said a high level public health technical team led by the National Director of Public health and disease surveillance Dr. Francis Kuria has been constituted to immediately carry out inspections and make recommendations on how to improve hygiene in the school.
“The team will work with a multi-agency team from both national and county government,” she added.
The CS directed the Principal Lorna Ndolo to immediately improve sanitation levels in the kitchen and dining hall.
CS Wafula said her ministry has reviewed guidelines on handling of food in schools that will be enforced.
PS Belio Kipsang said the ministry will not hesitate to take further action on school managers if it is established that they may have been negligent.
Earlier, the CS and PS and other senior government officials visited nine students of Sacred Heart Mukumu Girls still admitted at Kakamega Teaching and Referral Hospital where the doctor in charge Dr. Barbra Murila said they had shown great improvement.
“17 others are admitted at Mukumu Mission Hospital,” she added.
By George Kaiga