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Fri, Jul

The Ebola disease: How prepared is Ghana?

In February this year, the outbreak of  the Ebola viral disease began in southern Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Since then, 1,201 cases have been recorded, out of which 672 people, more than half of the cases, have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The disease, which is caused by the Ebola virus,is highly infectious, even  through mere physical contact, and so  cross-border activities make it difficult to handle which could make it the world’s deadliest outbreak, if not handled well.

The virus is spread from human to human through contact with bodily fluids of infected patients. It has no cure or vaccine to prevent people from contacting it, although chances of survival improve dramatically with early detection and treatment.

The Ebola virus causes severe viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) outbreaks in humans with a case fatality rate of up to 90 per cent. The incubation period, which is the time of infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is two to 21 days. The disease is said to have first appeared in 1976 in two concurrent outbreaks: in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River in Congo, from which the disease takes its name.

Currently, Nigeria has put all its entry points on red alert after confirming the death of a Liberian man who was carrying the virus of the highly contagious disease in the country while most border crossings in Liberia have been closed and communities hit by an Ebola outbreak face being quarantined as part of the country’s efforts to halt the spread of the virus.


Contingency measures 

Ghana has so far been spared any case of the deadly Ebola virus despite rumours  of the  Ebola scare that the disease was already in the country.The fear of most Ghanaians are  that the government had not done enough in readiness to contain the disease while others are ignorant of the disease and its implications.  Earlier this week, the Director of Public Affairs at the Ghana Immigration Service, Mr  Francis Palmdeti, said only four of Ghana’s 42 legitimate entry points were equipped to handle the deadly disease.

There are lots of other unapproved routes into the country, he said ,adding that little had been done by the government to provide the needed protective equipment and logistics to handle suspected Ebola cases at the  country’s points of entry.

However, during a press conference on Thursday, the government’s inter-ministerial team on the Ebola viral disease assured Ghanaians that it had put in place a well prepared plan at the country’s entry points to monitor the disease. 

As part of the measures, a temperature detector has been placed at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) to check the temperature levels of all passengers entering the country, the Minister of Health, Dr Kweku Agyemang - Mensah, said.

The Head of the Disease Surveillance Department of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Badu Sarkodie, also said plans were in place to establish three isolated centres in Accra, Tema and Kumasi to handle patients under surveillance.

The disease surveillance system in the country has been put on high alert through the intensification of viral haemorrhagic fever surveillance and an activated  system for screening all passengers ,especially those from countries that have recorded Ebola cases. Dr Sarkodie said the rapid response facilities had also been provided at major health centres across the country and at the various points of entry into the country to handle persons diagnosed with the disease.

 On the issue of funding, the Minister of Communications, Dr Edward Omane Boamah, said the government had enough funding to control the spread of the virus should it be confirmed in the country.


Precautionary measures 

As part of the precautionary measures to control the spread of the Ebola disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended  ways of greetings different from handshake to reduce the chances of contracting the Ebola virus.

It has also advised people to wash their hands regularly with soap under running water as part of the hygiene etiquette to avoid contact with the Ebola virus. 

Health experts have also advised that people should look out for the signs and symptoms of the Ebola infection and immediately report to the nearest hospital if they suspect a person of having contracted the deadly infection.

Some of the strict precautionary steps that both homes and hospitals should follow if they have the least suspicion of this deadly infection are isolating infected individuals; and practising barrier nurse techniques such as wearing appropriate gowns and gloves while attending to patients.