Reports of strange deaths occurring at Tema Manhean have sent fear and panic among residents of the area and, indeed, a section of Ghanaians.
At the last count, the dead toll had reached nine, and the situation becomes more fearful when viewed against the backdrop that the deaths occurred within a space of 10 days.
The apprehension among the people can be appreciated when viewed against recent outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola, especially in the West African sub-region.
The incidence of the Ebola disease that claimed hundreds of lives in neighbouring countries was perhaps the period in Ghana’s history when awareness of handwashing and sanitising as a means of preventing diseases got to its peak. But it appears the health consciousness that was evoked in the people at the time has died down.
Typical of humans, and especially in religious and traditional societies, a traditional priest has attributed the cause of deaths at Tema Manhean to a curse on the community, for which reason he has advised the residents to carry out spiritual baths in the sea to cleanse themselves.
Reports say some of the residents are doing just that.
The Daily Graphic is alarmed about this development, not because people should not exercise their right to practise their beliefs but rather because such pronouncements have a high tendency to thwart efforts at containing any outbreak of a disease in the affected area.
We are, however, happy that the Tema Traditional Council has dissociated itself from the claim by the traditional priest and we think it is a very important step in the attempt by the health authorities to investigate and establish the cause of deaths.
But even as we commend the traditional authority, we have our reservation that the traditional council would also jump the gun and ascribe the cause of deaths to factors such as prolonged illness, shock and drunkenness.
Just like the traditional council, we encourage all to keep calm as the Ghana Health Service conducts its investigations.
It is only after the investigations that the true causes of deaths can be established for the necessary interventions to be instituted to prevent any further deaths.
We recollect that on the onset of the Ebola disease in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, it took nearly three months, in some of these countries, for health officials and their international partners to identify the virus as the causal agent, by which time the virus had become firmly ensconced.
We also remember that before the Ebola disease got to epidemic proportions, a few scattered cases had already been detected but not investigated or formally reported.
The outbreak smouldered for weeks, eventually multiplying, with transmission spilling into wider areas than could be contained.
It is with this experience in our minds that we call on the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service to take a cue and work assiduously to unravel the cause of deaths.
Meanwhile, we highly commend the health authorities for the timely manner in which they have responded to the issue. With our relatively weak health system, we should not leave anything to chance to be overwhelmed by events.
We know it is more difficult to deal with unfamiliar and unexpected diseases.
We do also recognise the level of social and economic upheaval that has accompanied the outbreak of diseases around the world, especially how swiftly they could move once they reach urban and densely populated areas.
This should be our guide as we seek to unravel the circumstances of the deaths at Tema Manhean.