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07.04.2011 Health

Swine Flu, Apollo, Cholera Hits Ghana

By Daily Guide
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JUST WHEN the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and its allied health institutions were working hard to contain the cholera pandemic two other known contagious diseases appear to have reared their heads in the country.

The Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 popularly known as Swine Flu and Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis commonly called 'Apollo' have being reported at major hospitals across the country.

Authorities at the Achimota Hospital in Accra have confirmed 15 reports of the H1N1 Influenza from Achimota and its environs.

Speaking to Health Matters in Accra yesterday, Michael Alexander Garr, Diseases Control Officer of the GHS at the Achimota Hospital said officially 11 out of the 15 reported cases came from St John's Grammar Senior High School with the remaining cases coming from Tesano, Achimota and Alogboshie areas.

He explained that the disease was prevalent at the St. John's Grammar SHS because of the mode of transmission of the pandemic.

He said 't he pandemic Influenza H1N1 2009 is a disease that is caused by a virus that affects the respiratory system. The viruses are mainly spread from one person to another through droplets released during coughing or sneezing.'

He continued that sometimes people may become infected by touching surfaces or holding objects contaminated with the influenza viruses.

Mr. Garr noted that realizing the danger, his outfit in collaboration with the Ga West District Health Management team went to the St. John's Grammar SHS to educate the students on the causes, symptoms and preventive mechanisms of the virus.

The school has however vacated for the holidays so health officials can have the opportunity to fumigate the school.

The health official stated that all the victims have been treated and discharged and have been asked to stay at home for a period of two weeks in order not to spread the disease.

The symptoms of the disease are: high temperature, headache, body pain, fever, difficulty in breathing, vomiting, diarrhea and sore throat among others

In some cases, vomiting and diarrhea and complications of the disease include pneumonia.

Mr. Garr advised that people should regularly wash their hands with soap and water and entreated infected individuals to cover their mouths with a handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing or coughing.

He also called on individuals who experience any of the symptoms to rush to the nearest health center for free testing and treatment.

On the Apollo pandemic, the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana (OSG) in a statement issued in Accra said reported cases from four clinics in Accra and Tema last month was 390, while Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi reported 81 cases.

The statement jointly signed by Dr Edith Dogbe, President and Dr Imoro Zeba Braimah, General Secretary said 12 cases were reported to Agogo Presbyterian Hospital, 20 cases at Akwatia Government Hospital and a few other verbal reports from various private eye clinics in Bolgatanga and Bawku.

Apollo which is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the lining of the eyelids and eyeball, usually affects both eyes but may affect one eye and later spread to the other.

It affects people of all ages particularly those in crowded living conditions (that is in homes, schools, day care centres, work places) and those who engage in poor hand washing practices.

Its mode of transmission is by contact with the hands, towels, face cloths and other surfaces exposed to secretions that contain the virus.

The symptoms of Apollo include sore eyes, a feeling of grittiness or burning, redness, watery discharge, swelling of the eyelids and sensitivity to light.

The statement advised against the use of steroid eye drops and advised affected persons to report immediately to an eye care worker for appropriate treatment.

It also said affected persons should stay away from non affected persons to prevent spreading of the disease.

The statement said frequent hand washing and personal hygiene measures must be adopted whilst avoiding the urge to rub the eyes with unclean hands could prevent the disease.

Meanwhile statistics available from the GHS for September 29, 2010 to March 27, 2011 indicates that cholera cases from 10 districts in Greater Accra stands at 4,499 with 36 deaths. This is followed by 573 cases from 12 districts in the Eastern region with 9 deaths; 554 cases with 24 deaths from 7 districts in Central; 8 cases from one district in Upper West with no deaths and 32 cases from a district in Northern region with no deaths.

According to Dr. Joseph Amankwah, Public Health Director of GHS in an interview with Health Matters , between 800 and 900 cases are reported each week. He describes the recent pandemic as a mysterious one.

He further stated that another factor that could be contributing to the situation was that most landlords in Accra have rented out rooms without toilet facilities to tenants. This he noted has contributed to a lot of people defecating in nearby bushes, packaging faeces in black polythene bags and throwing these into gutters among other unhygienic practices.

'This is weird yet the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) doesn't seem to care!'

The GHS has therefore warned that the prevention and control of cholera require an integrated multi-sectoral approach since the control of most of the risk factors are beyond the health sector.

'The outbreak is not under control and is still spreading rapidly. The possibility of it spreading to other regions and districts is very high,' it noted in a memorandum.

By Esther Awuah

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