ATAG is dismayed and utterly shocked with the devastating effects of the Meningitis outbreaks in the Upper West Region. According to the Regional Director of Health Services, Dr. Kojo Osei Afreh the region have recorded 214 Meningitis cases, with over 33 deaths. This came to light when he addressed the media on the outbreak of Meningitis in the region last week.
Though it will be needless to start apportioning blames since that in itself will not resolve the problem or bring back the lives lost as a result of the outbreak. That notwithstanding, it is important to state that the managers of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in the Region have delayed to press the warning button and therefore missed the goal post, resulting in government inability to act timeously to contain the meningitis outbreak in the region since they are over saddled with the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, caused by various pathogens and substances; with the majority being either a bacterial or viral infection of the fluid surrounding these areas. Though it has various strains, it is a known condition within the region since the region is within the Meningitis belt. However, Meningitis is one of the diseases of public health importance and therefore being monitored with thresholds by GHS throughout the year; but mostly occurs within the heat period from October to June every year. It was usually known within the five northern regions, but in recent times it has gone beyond its known boundaries to affecting other parts of the country.
Indeed, as it is known in public health that diseases outbreak can never be prevented. However, early planning with robust Social and Behaviour Change Communication interventions would have mitigated the negative impact of the meningitis outbreak in the region. As risk communication is most effective when it is incorporated into preparedness plan for major health events in all aspect of an outbreak response.
Though meningitis is highly deadly, it can be managed and treated with early reporting to the nearest health facilities for medical attention after noticing the signs and symptoms such as; severe fever, severe headache, feel like vomiting and vomiting, stiffness of the neck, body weakness, joint and muscle pains, difficulty in breathing and in an uncommon situation blisters and breathing from the nose and mouth; with diarrhea, shrill cry, bulging of fontanel, restlessness, convulsion observed in children among others.
Consequently, ATAG would use this platform to call on the populace in the region not to be scared or panic, but heighten these precautionary measures, such as; avoiding overcrowded places, drink lots of fluids/water to prevent throats getting dry and getting sore throats, cover nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, sleep in well ventilated rooms, sprinkle water on the ground before sweeping and avoid self-medication etc.
It is regrettable, to mention that the Meningitis situation in the Upper West Region could be exacerbated if prompt action is not taken to isolate the strain leading to mass vaccination. However, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the region too, it could best be described as double jeopardy. Undoubtedly, there is the likelihood the response to the novel COVID-19 overshadowing the Meningitis response by GHS in the region which consequences could be calamitous.
ATAG, is therefore calling on government and GHS as a matter of urgency isolate the strain and roll out mass vaccination campaign against the Meningitis outbreak in the Upper West Region to prevent needless deaths.
Seidu Jaadi - Lead Convener of ATAG Tel:, 0572593390:, Rashid Mahamud-Tel: 0207452353 & Martin Kundor -Tel: 0242546740 (Communication and Media Relation Officers ), Mujeeb Angbang (Policy and Research Officer) Tel: 0205 767 636 [Supported by: Ibrahim Maalisung Tel: 0209 313 640 & Naeem Mahmud Tel: 0279 442 154]