Cholera Spread: Fear Of School Outbreak Rises As Pupils Resume

As the schools resume from the mid-term break and the Sallah holiday on Wednesday, there are fears the pupils may be at risk of contracting cholera, a food and water-borne disease caused by the ingestion of the vibrio cholera bacteria.

Public health experts noted that the disease, which broke across the country last week, could spread fast in schools if preventive measures were not in place to prevent it.

Against this background, the Chief of UNICEF, Lagos Field Office, Celine Lafoucrier, has called for extensive measures to protect school children, noting that concerted efforts must be made to prevent disruption in the academic calendar over the spread of the disease.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention had recently warned the public of the increasing trend of cholera cases as the rainy season intensifies.

The NCDC stated that from January 1 to June 11, 2024, over 1,141 suspected and over 65 confirmed cases of cholera, resulting in over 30 deaths, had been reported from 96 LGAs in 30 states.

The centre noted that the 10 states contributing 90 per cent to the burden of the current cholera outbreak include Bayelsa, Zamfara, Abia, Cross River, Bauchi, Delta, Katsina, Imo, Nasarawa, and Lagos states.

Explaining the need to prevent the disease outbreak in schools, Lafoucrier noted that children faced substantial health risks, particularly those under five, who are prone to severe dehydration and higher mortality rates.

Lafoucrier, according to the News Agency of Nigeria, in a statement on Monday, stated, “Similarly, post-recovery issues in children can include malnutrition, stunted growth, and weakened immune systems, increasing susceptibility to other diseases. These outbreaks underscore the urgent need for improved access to clean water and sanitation in many areas.

“Despite the state government’s efforts to provide water to its population, the current outbreak demonstrates the need for an urgent government focus on ensuring the water provided to the population is clean and risk-free.’’

The UNICEF official said educational disruption is another critical consequence of cholera outbreaks, as an illness and the need to care for sick family members lead to school closures and reduced attendance, hindering children’s learning and development.

UNICEF advises govt

“Addressing the challenges of cholera outbreaks requires a deliberate focus of state policies to provide high-standard water and sanitation facilities, as well as strengthened healthcare systems capable of responding to the demand in times of outbreaks, and state-led educational campaigns on cholera prevention to protect children and the population at large,” she emphasised.

A professor of public health at the University of Ilorin and Consultant Public Health Physician at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Kwara State, Prof Kayode Osagbemi, said the infection could spread in schools if measures were not taken to prevent it.

Osagbemi said, “There will be gatherings of people in schools, and the moment they (schoolchildren) are sharing items, it can spread. If any of them is infected, it can spread to others, rather than if they are in their homes.

“Generally, the spread in schools is not a major concern, except maybe in boarding houses. In boarding houses, one person infected may infect others through contamination of the water and their food.”

The public health expert noted that the best way to prevent the spread is with the provision of clean food, water, and hand washing among the students.

“So, for now, the students should go with their water bottles, rather than sharing water. Then, there should be hand-washing facilities in the schools, and even in their toilets.

“When they get home, they should wash their hands and take their baths before eating; and within schools, there should be no sharing of things for now, since there is an outbreak,” he explained.


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