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29.09.2008 Health

Health alert Chicken Pox hits Accra

By Times
Health alert Chicken Pox hits Accra

An unusual outbreak of chicken pox is being experienced in the Accra metropolis this year, according to a Times survey.

The survey, conducted in six medical centres, including three hospitals and three polyclinics, revealed that about 600 cases have been reported in the first quarter of the year.

Last year, 356 cases were reported during the same period at hospitals and clinics located in three sub-metros of Ayawaso, Kpeshie and Okaikoi within the Accra metropolitan area.

The survey revealed that the new outbreak is more prevalent in densely populated areas.

For instance, La recorded 194 cases at its General Hospital, Maamobi 189 at the Sulemana Memorial Hospital, a private hospital and Nima 137 in the government clinic, according to the survey.

In areas where the population seemed less dense, cases reported are either few or there is no case at all.

While Adabraka Polyclinic recorded about 80 cases Mr Christopher Clegg, the Officer in charge of Disease Control Unit, said there was no case reported in the outskirts of the city.

Nsawam and its immediate environ in the Akuapem South District, which is a neighbour to the city to the north, recorded no case according to Dr L.K Senaya, the District Director of Health Services.

He said his office has been monitoring the cases in Accra, and was ready to contain any outbreak in the district through monitoring and surveillance teams which have been set up to deal with such matters.

Mr Julius Icuusalesue, Administrator of the Nsawam Hospital affirmed the assertion of his District Director saying, "We have not had a case in the hospital as far as our records show".

This gives credence to the fact that over crowding facilitates infection from person to person as was experienced at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in recent times.

Early last month, a whole ward at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital was shut down and patients were evacuated to allow for fumigation, apparently due to overcrowding in the ward.

Mrs Anna Ndebi, the Nursing Sister at the Nima Government Clinic said the outbreak could be attributed to heat and closeness of people in sleeping quarters.

"Some of the accommodation arrangements in my catchment area have about five people sleeping closely together" she said.

Mrs Ndebi said the disease tended to affect children because of their low resistance level, adding that "this year we have seen cases which cut across the age groups".

Mrs Georgina Nortey, Principal Nursing Officer at the La General Hospital said the disease had assumed the position of the third most communicable disease at the Out-patients Department.

Though she blamed overcrowding as a contributing factor of the disease, she said the filth which has engulfed the metropolis of late could also be another factor.

"There are organisms which feed on these filth and are later released into the atmosphere, thus the disease comes to live with us as our next door neighbours" she said.

Mrs Nortey said this year's occurrence has been unusual because she thought the disease had been eradicated, "only for it to rear its ugly head again".

The data for Ridge Hospital and Maamobi Polyclinic were not included in the survey because, though Prince Osei Frimpong, the officer in charge of Disease Control at the Ridge Hospital admitted there had been substantial recorded cases he refused to make figures available saying he needed to get clearance from higher a authority

He said from records he obtained from the Korle-Bu Public Health Reference Laboratory, there is the need for health authorities to watch out for yellow fever cases this year.

Mr Frimpong said though chicken pox has not recorded any casualty, yellow fever has claimed one victim at the hospital.

At the Maamobi Polyclinic, the Administrator of the hospital said no case had been reported, though before then Times had seen 82 cases recorded in a month at the Records Department.

When the administrator was contacted with the figure which the Times reporter had seen earlier, she accepted that there has been some cases but she declined to release any figures.

Mrs Sarah Bamfo, acting Director of Accra Metropolitan Health Services admitted the unusual outbreak of the disease.

She said from record she received from three sub-metropolitan areas of Ayawaso, Kpeshie and Okaikoi, there have been 1,290 confirmed cases since last year to early this year.

She said the cases were recorded from Agbogbloshie, Chemunaa, Tudu, Kasoa, with other cases being recorded at Kaneshie Polyclinic, Ussher Polyclinic and the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.

She said they have plans to move into the communities where the cases were reported to determine the factors which might have resulted in the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the Regional Health Directorate has confirmed the outbreak of the disease in a press statement yesterday.

A statement signed by Dr Irene Agyepong asked "any person who has loose watery stools and is vomiting" to get to the nearest clinic or hospital for treatment.

It said all government facilities in the Greater Accra Region are resourced to handle cases free of charge stating that "people should adopt and practice good personal and environmental hugiene for good health".