By Tosin Ariyo
The Frist Global Health Leaders (FGHL) program affords young health professional students, residents, and fellows the opportunity to serve and train abroad in underserved communities for up to one semester. In doing so, they will bolster capacity in clinics in need of support as well as offer training to community health workers to promote sustainability upon their departure from these communities. As part of the program, they blog about their experiences here. For more information, visit our program page.
On my first day at work, the WHO-country representative fondly called ‘WR’, received a report of an outbreak on the outskirts of the capital where we were situated. The outbreak was reported to have started near an elementary school in the Kanyama district (a slum on the outskirts of the city). The index case was an 11-yr old boy who died 3 weeks prior to the day the WHO received the outbreak notification. The index case was diagnosed post-mortem with Typhoid. Symptoms were: headache, fever, diarrhea and abdominal pains.
After the index case, there were 3 students from the same school with confirmed cases. At the time of notification, there were 200 suspected cases, 104 of which were linked to the index case. The focal point of the outbreak was the Kanyama clinic, which is the first-level referral facility that then referred the confirmed cases to the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.
The WHO office was contacted to request technical and financial assistance to conduct field investigation. As an intern, I was assigned to assist the epidemiology and health promotion team. As a team, we conducted daily meetings, line listings, lab visits and field investigations in order to monitor the outbreak. The WHO office also supported the Kanyama clinic in sending out community health volunteers to go into the affected residential areas to conduct health education and promotion activities. The first ten days after an outbreak notification are crucial in preventing it from escalating to an epidemic, but first things first, alert the community to avoid the contaminated water source.