Mukumu Girls' closed indefinitely after disease outbreak kills 2 students

The entrance of Mukumu Girls High School in Kakamega

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group.

Sacred Heart Mukumu Girls’ High School in Kakamega County has been closed indefinitely following the deaths of two students in a case of suspected food and water poisoning.

Mr Jared Obiero, the Western region’s education director, who visited the school on Monday morning, said the Ministry of Health and medical workers from the county government were investigating the cause of the disease outbreak, which saw 246 learners admitted to hospital in one week.

The initial number of students sent to hospital with diarrhoea, vomiting and dizziness was 124, but this nearly doubled, with some of them also complaining of fatigue and breathlessness. 

So far, two students have died while the majority have been discharged from the Kakamega County General Teaching & Referral Hospital and St Elizabeth Mukumu Mission Hospital, with only 25 still in hospital.

The school's board of management chairman, Dr Josphat Kaswira, on Saturday confirmed the death of the first student, who was from Bungoma County. The second one died at home in Navakholo on Sunday after falling sick.

Parents flocked to the school to collect their children after learning of the deaths.

In an April 2 notice to parents, school principal Fridah Ndolo said the two students who died were in Form One W and Form Two C.

“Let’s pray for our students and the Mukumu community. If we take a child home for treatment let us take her to hospital and monitor her. We have lost two students. God, give us grace and wisdom to go through this trying moment. May the departed souls find eternal peace.”

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale visited the school on Monday, accompanied by Woman Representative Elsie Muhanda, and called for an overhaul of the school's management.

Dr Khalwale also visited the institution last Friday, and asked the Ministry of Health to close it to avert a health crisis. He described the situation at the school as dire, saying urgent measures should be taken to address the underlying cause of the sickness.

Initial findings by medical workers at the Kakamega general hospital indicated the learners may have suffered food or water poisoning. Samples were collected and sent to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) for analysis.

Last week, Dr Kaswira said the school would implement corrective measures after receiving Kemri’s report.