The Ministry of Education has decided to close down the Kumasi Academy (KUMACA) to pave the way for officials of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to carry out an environmental health scan to determine the actual cause of increasing deaths among the students of the school.
However, the decision will be carried out after the students and the teaching and non-teaching staff of the school and their families have completed taking the antibiotic currently being administered to them jointly by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and WHO.
The decision to close down the school was the outcome of a closed-door meeting held by a Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum; the Ashanti Regional Minister and the Ashanti Regional Director of Health, Dr Emmanuel Tinkorang, in Kumasi on Wednesday.
Briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting, Dr Adutwum said although the specific bacteria causing the deaths could not be traced, the administration of the broad-spectrum antibiotic would contain the spread of the infection and allow the school to be closed down for the environmental scan to be carried out by the WHO.
Four students of the school died between November 30 and December 5, 2017, bringing the total number of students who have passed away in the school since April this year to 11.
Dr Adutwum advised parents to allow their children to go through and complete the full course of the three-day drug administration before taking them home, adding: “We are going to close down the school, but we want to protect the children first.”
He urged parents who had taken their children home to send them back for the drug administration and appealed to day students of the school to also take part in the drug administration.
Currently, 19 students of the school are on admission — 16 of them at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Hospital, while three are at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH).
For his part, Dr Tinkorang said the students on admission were responding to treatment after taking the broad-spectrum antibiotic.
He said after the administration of the antibiotic, the temperature of all those on admission went down and that was what encouraged the GHS to administer the same medicine to all the students.
Meanwhile, Members of Parliament (MPs) have urged the Ministry of Health and health experts to speed up the process towards establishing the cause of death at KUMACA, writes Musah Yahaya Jafaru from PARLIAMENT HOUSE.
They said the increasing rate of death among the students there had created fear and panic among the students, the teaching and non-teaching staff, parents, as well as residents of Kumasi.
The legislators said the delay in establishing the cause of the deaths was inexcusable, considering the fact that the deaths started around March this year.
The MPs made the call yesterday after the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, had briefed the House on the health situation at KUMACA.
Mr Agyeman-Manu was responding to a directive by the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, following a request by the Minority Chief Whip and MP for Asawase, Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, for the minister to be asked to give an official position on measures being taken by the ministry to prevent the spread of the disease.
According to the minister, since November 29, 2017, the cases reported had been mostly high-grade fever with headache, with or without neck pains.
He said three of the students died at the KNUST Hospital and one at KATH, while 23 were still on admission, with 19 having been treated and discharged.
The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said "we are still groping in the dark as to what is causing the deaths at KUMACA".
He said it would be wrong to talk about applying vaccination now "when we don't know the cause of death" and indicated that the first step was to establish the cause of the ailment.
He, therefore, urged the agencies responsible "to speed up the process of finding the cause of the predicament because they cannot go on indefinitely".
The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said urgency of response in terms of timing and methods was critical to finding a solution to the situation.
He said the country would become the laughing stock of the international community if health experts continued to delay in establishing the cause of the deaths in the school.
He urged the Minister of Health to declare KUMACA a public health emergency zone and taken over by health experts to monitor the situation.
The MP for Daffiama/Bussi/Issa, Dr Sebastian Ngmenenso Sandaare, who is a medical practitioner, stressed the need for the Ministry of Health to deal with the health situation in the school with alacrity.
Alhaji Muntaka urged the Minister of Health to liaise with the school authorities to let parents who had taken their children home to send them back to the school to receive the three-day preventive treatment being administered in the school.
He said if care was not taken, the disease could spread to homes in Kumasi and other parts of the country.
Public health actions
Mr Agyeman-Manu said the students had been put on prophylaxis, chemotherapy and other interventions that could prevent further infections in the school.
He said initial findings were negative for viral hemorrhagic fever and indicated that an initial autopsy was, however, inconclusive.
"Currently, no definite laboratory confirmation has been done as to the cause of the outbreak," he said.
He said some specimen had been taken from the KNUST Hospital and sent to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research for investigations.
He said a national response team, supported by the WHO, was assisting the health authorities in the Ashanti Region to facilitate the response activities.
Besides, Mr Agyeman-Manu said, surveillance had been intensified throughout the Asokore-Mampong municipality.