KABOMPO Secondary School in North-Western Province has been closed for two weeks after recording six cases of meningitis resulting in three deaths, Minister of Health Joseph Kasonde has said.
Dr Kasonde told a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday that the first case of meningitis was reported on June 20, 2015 while the sixth case was recorded on July 3 at the institution.
“Apart from the three deaths, three other pupils from the same school were also admitted to Kabompo District Hospital for suspected meningitis. The laboratory in Solwezi examined the specimens and confirmed one positive case of meningitis,” Dr Kasonde said.
The minister said 55 pupils have so far been screened for meningitis and four were referred to Solwezi General Hospital for further assessment.
“The district community medical office (DCMO) and the school are also informing all pupils from the school to report to the nearest facility for chemoprophylaxis to prevent them from developing the disease,” Dr Kasonde said.
Meningococcal meningitis is caused by a bacterium called neisseria meningitides. It is an acute bacterial disease characterised by sudden onset of fever, intense headache, nausea and often vomiting and a stiff neck.
A rash occasionally appears, particularly in light-skinned individuals.
Dr Kasonde said the disease is the main form of bacterial meningitis that causes epidemics in Africa and remains a public health challenge.
“The people at risk are children under the age of five years, young adults between 14 and 25 years, and adults above 55 years,” he said.
The minister said the disease is transmitted by direct contact, including respiratory droplets from the nose and throats of infected people.
Dr Kasonde said meningitis is curable and is treated with antibiotics.
Dr Kasonde appealed to the public to practice hand hygiene, cough etiquette and co-operate with the health officials and directives in order to control and avoid further spread of the disease.
He said meningitis is a serious disease but can be prevented and cured if treatment is sought early.