Mukumu Girls' student dies days after hundreds hospitalised

The entrance of Mukumu Girls High School in Kakamega

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group.

A student of Sacred Heart Mukumu Girls' High School in Kakamega County has died days after 246 learners were hospitalised with vomiting, diarrhoea and dizziness.

The school's board of management chairman, Dr Josphat Kaswira, confirmed the death but did not give further details, saying the matter was being discussed first.

“We are currently discussing the matter and will be issuing further details after we are through with the meeting,” he told the Nation.

Sources at the school told the Nation that the student had been sent home to seek treatment after she fell ill, but that her condition worsened, leading to the death.

The initial number of students who were admitted with those symptoms was 124, but this more than doubled, with some of them also complaining of fatigue and breathlessness.

Following the disease outbreak last Tuesday, the students were taken to the Kakamega County General Teaching & Referral Hospital and the St Elizabeth Mukumu Hospital. As of Saturday, 28 students remained in hospital, the rest having been treated and discharged.

Initial findings by medics at the 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.

Dr Kwasira said the school would implement corrective measures after receiving Kemri’s report.

He added that the school had 2,018 students but 400 were yet to report back after the half term break.

Last Friday, Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale visited the school and asked the Ministry of Health to close it to avert a health crisis.

Senator Khalwale described the situation at the school as dire, saying urgent measures should be taken to address the underlying cause of the sickness.

“There are 20 new cases of students being admitted to hospital, presenting the same symptoms. This is a serious matter that must be addressed,” he said then.

“It is sad that more than 200 girls are affected. This calls for the attention of all leaders in the county. I propose that the principal is assisted by the Ministry of Education in closing the school because the lives of students are in danger.”

He spoke after public health officials conducted tests and inspected the school.

Shinyalu MP Frederick Ikana dismissed the call by Senator Khalwale, saying closing the school would would affect academic performance

“There are procedures which must be followed before the school is closed. The mandate lies with the Ministry of Education. I appeal for calm and ask people to stop speculating about the situation. We wish those undergoing treatment a quick recovery,” he said.

Mr Ikana said that once Kemri issues its report, measures will be taken to improve conditions at the school, which has suffered similar cases in the past.

Last May, 28 students from the school were hospitalised with fever and diarrhoea.

And in July the same year, two students from the school died while receiving treatment for a suspected malaria attack. Ministry of Health officials were sent to the school to investigate the causes of deaths linked to a malaria outbreak.