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Foodborne illness among school children in Ga east, Accra

KL Malm
KM Nyarko
AE Yawson
B Gogo
A Lawson
E Afari


Background: A food borne illness was reported in Ga- East district of Greater Accra Region among school children in May, 2007 after eating food provided at school. The objective of the investigation was to determine the source, mode of contamination and the causative agent.
Methods: A case-control study was conducted, cases were schoolchildren with abdominal symptoms and controls were children of the same sex and class without any symptom during the same period. The school children were selected by systematic sampling. Food handlers and the children were interviewed by a structured questionnaire. Food handlers were physically examined and their stools and blood examined. The kitchen for food preparation was inspected. Risks of food borne infection from the foods eaten were determined using attack rates .
Results: The minimum, peak and maximum incubation periods were 2, 11 and 61 hours respectively. The source was rice and groundnut soup (with the highest attack rate difference). Stool and blood samples of food handlers were not infective. Storage facility for food items was poor. No food samples were available for organism isolation. A protocol to prevent such outbreaks was nonexistent.
Conclusion: The short incubation period and symptoms presented suggest an infective origin. The storage of the meat may potentially have been the point of contamination. The study showed that the schoolchildren ate contaminated food although the investigation could not determine the causative agent. Protocols to prevent such outbreaks need to be developed for the schools.

Keywords: Food borne, illness, contaminated food, school children, Accra