Government has said the spike in cough and flu cases among school going children around the country is not as a result of the deadly Coronavirus.
In the past one month, teachers, parents and other members of the public have reported increased cases of flu and cough among children, especially those in schools
During many of the cases, the children presented symptoms including high temperatures whereas the coughs were in some cases dry.
This raised concern among members of the public with many fearing there was a Covid outbreak, barely two months after schools reopened in January , having been closed for two years.
However, addressing journalists on Monday, the State Minister for Primary Education, Joyce Moriku Kaducu said following the spike in these cases, they received an alert from a school in Wakiso district indicating that several students had presented symptoms similar to what was thought to be covid prompting an investigation into the matter.
“In this school oropharyngeal samples were collected by the Ministry of Health team from 198 out of 431 individuals who had symptoms in this school. The samples were tested for Covi-19 and all turned out negative for SARS CoV2, the virus that causes Covid,”Kaducu said.
“Out of the 198 samples, collected from students, 58 tested positive for Influenza A and two tested positive for Influenza B. “
Dismissing the Covid claims, the minister explained that there were no pathognomic symptoms of the virus like loss of smell, taste or acute severe respiratory distress and respiratory failure.
“Of note, younger learners appear to have a higher attack rate as compared to older learners and in most cases, the illness was between mild and moderate with no signs of severe respiratory illness,” she added.
The minister however noted that the findings indicate there is an outbreak of Influenza in the country, a fact she said can be related to the fact that this usually happens between the months of February and March every year.
She noted that this happens especially in places with large numbers of people congregating like in schools.
“Available evidence in Uganda over the years shows Influenza type A follows a pattern with an annual biomodal distribution.”
According to Dr. Jesca Nsungwa, the Commissioner for Maternal and Child Health at the Ministry of Health, there is nothing to worry about as Influenza has been around the country for many years, even before Covid came.
“This came earlier than Covid but this one affects children mostly below five years of age. It is also very common in elderly homes in Europe. It always comes during periods when the whether is changing between dry and wet season just like it is right now in Uganda,”Dr.Nsungwa said.
“Because it is stronger than the usual flu, the children may experience headache. It also confuses parents to think children have malaria but it is Influenza.”
The Incident Commander for COVID-19 in the Ministry of Health, Lt Col Dr. Kyobe Henry Bbosa said Uganda being situated at the Equator, it is susceptible to getting such viruses like Influenza which collect from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at the Equator.
However, officials from the Ministry of Health noted that schools need to ensure implementation of Standard Operating Procedures like wearing of facemasks, proper hygiene, avoiding overcrowding and clustering learners to avoid further spread of the infections.
“Ensure children are kept hydrated all the time by giving them plenty of water and juice. We encourage school administrators to make use of school bays other than sending students in boarding sections home,” Minister Kaducu advised.
The Commissioner for Maternal and Child Health, Dr.Jesca Nsungwa noted that unfortunately, there is not drug for curing Influenza but rather only symptoms are treated.
“Because there is no cure, we only treat the symptoms. If the child gets headache, give them painkillers and if any other symptoms, treat that,”she advised.