Influenza is an acute viral respiratory tract infection caused by influenza virus and transmitted from person to person. Though usually seasonal in temperate climates, influenza occurs throughout the year in the tropics with outbreaks occurring at irregular intervals. On February 6, 2018, a number of students from a Senior High School (SHS) in Accra reported to a district hospital with cough, fever and other respiratory symptoms. An influenza-like illness (ILI) outbreak was suspected. We investigated to determine the magnitude and source of the outbreak and implement control and preventive measures.
We interviewed health workers, staff and students of the school as well as case-patients and reviewed health records to collect data on demographic characteristics, signs and symptoms, date of illness onset and outcome. We defined ILI case as “any person in the SHS with fever (measured axillary temperature of ≥ 37.5 °C or history of fever) and cough with or without sore throat or runny nose from January 21 to February 26, 2018”. We conducted active case search to identify more cases and took oropharyngeal samples for laboratory testing. We performed descriptive and inferential analysis by calculating attack rate ratios (ARR) and their exact 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Of the 3160 students, 104 case-patients were recorded from January 25, 2018 to February 13, 2018 (overall attack rate of 3.3%). Mean age of case-patients was 16.1 (±2.3) years with males constituting 71.2% (74/104). Sex specific attack rates were 5.6% (74/1331) and 1.6% (30/1829) for males and females respectively. Compared to females, males were 3.4 times as likely to be ill [ARR =3.4, 95%CI = (2.23-5.15)]. Nine oropharyngeal samples from 17 suspected case-patients tested positive for influenza A (H1N1)pdm09.
Outbreak of influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 occurred in a SHS in Accra from January to February, 2018. Even though source of the outbreak could not be determined, prompt case management and health education on hand and personal hygiene as non-pharmacological factors probably contributed to the outbreak control. The outbreak ended with a scheduled mid-term break. This underscores the need for more evidence on the effect of school closure in influenza outbreak control.