NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 17 – An outbreak of the highly contagious AH1N1 influenza virus has occurred at the Kenya High School with at least 20 new confirmed cases.
Public Health Minister Beth Mugo said on Thursday that the 20 girls had been put on treatment and were quarantined in school.
“We also have isolated the girls who have any existing conditions such as asthma and others who would be at high risk of contracting the disease,” the Minister said.
She said the quarantine was done in school to ensure the virus did not spread.
“So our teams are already in place and the girls know they are in good hands,” she emphasized.
The outbreak brings the total number of confirmed cases of virus commonly referred to as Swine flu to 159 in Kenya.
Mrs Mugo assured parents that there was no need for alarm as the cases were mild since none of the patients had developed complications.
“And these cases are resolving themselves,” she said and added, “Up to now we have not lost any patient.”
She however said Kenya would remain on high alert incase the virus mutated.
It is not known how the 20 students, whose status was confirmed on Wednesday, contracted the virus coming just after the August holidays.
On Friday last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued an advice on measures that could be undertaken in schools to reduce the impact of the H1N1 influenza pandemic.
The International health body recommended that students, teachers and other staff who felt unwell should stay at home and plans should be in place and space available to isolate students and staff who became ill while at school.
WHO further recommended that the timing of school closure was critically important and said that studies suggested it had greatest impact when they were closed very early in an outbreak, ideally before one percent of the population fell ill.
“Under ideal conditions, school closure can reduce the demand for healthcare by an estimated 30–50 percent at the peak of the pandemic,” the statement read in part.
“However, if schools close too late in the course of a community-wide outbreak, the resulting reduction in transmission is likely to be very limited,” it further stated.
The statement said recommendations were drawn on recent experiences in several countries as well as studies of the health, economic, and social consequences of school closures undertaken by members of a WHO informal network for mathematical modelling of the pandemic.
The first cases of the AH1N1 influenza virus that involved Kenyans were reported in June.
This was after a student from the United Kingdom who was among 33 other British students tested positive to the flu. He and his colleagues were quarantined for six days in a Kisumu hotel.
In the same month, the WHO raised the Pandemic alert status from phase 5 to phase 6, which meant that the disease had reached the emergency level.
The new strain of H1N1 Influenza virus is believed to be caused by a mutated H5N1 strain virus subtype, which also causes bird flu.
The new form contains DNA sequences from human and avian influenza viruses, as well as from other strains of swine influenza.
The new strain, which is transmitted from human to human, has not circulated previously in humans. The virus is contagious, spreading easily from one person to another and from one country to another.
Young people under the age of 25 years are the main casualties in all the countries.
A similar outbreak occurred in 1918 but was more severe than the current epidemic but the WHO warned that this may change hence the need for more vigilance.