General News of Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Source: The Chronicle

Gov’t has no cash to fight ebola

There are fears that Ghana may not be in position to effectively contain and manage the deadly Ebola disease, should there be an outbreak, mainly due to financial constraints. Ghana is currently contending with an outbreak of Cholera.

Information gathered by The Chronicle indicates that the government is yet to release funds to the Ministry of Health to adequately prepare to contain the disease in the event of an outbreak.

Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Victor Bampoe, in a response to concerns raised by Franklin Cudjoe, Chief Executive Officer of IMANI Ghana, on social media platform Facebook on the Ministry’s preparedness to contain the disease, said, “funding has been made available to the Ministry of Health to support the Ebola Response and Preparedness Plan.”

However, the Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Health, Mr. Tony Goodman, says the ministry is at the moment making do from its own resources, “hoping that funds would be released by the government soon enough to continue what the ministry is currently doing.” The Chronicle is informed that the budget presented by the Ministry of Health to adequately prepare was heavily slashed by the government.

The actual budget presented to government was not readily available to The Chronicle, but the Ministry says “some of the amount was approved.” Mr. Goodman explained that the setback, notwithstanding, the Ministry was working around the clock to set up isolation and specialised centers in preparation to manage any outbreak. He said currently, centers have been created in all regions and hospitals at the border towns to contain any suspected cases.

Dr. Bampoe also said the Ghana Health Service was working with National Security and the border agencies to screen people from areas in the sub region with suspected cases. He also indicated that messages from the Health Service are going out with periodic updates to let people know how to spot suspected cases, who to report them to and how to avoid getting infected.

The Ministry of Health is expected to hold a press briefing today to update the general public on the Ebola situation in Ghana, and the preparations made so far to contain an outbreak.

The Ebola scare

The Ebola Disease continues to wreck havoc in Central and West Africa, claiming lives. Ghana has not recorded any incident yet, as all two suspected cases had been proved negative by laboratory tests. There are, however, fears that the porous nature of the country’s borders, including the many unapproved entry points, makes the country susceptible to a possible outbreak.

According to the World Health Organisation, between 18 – 20 July 2014, 45 new cases and 28 deaths were reported from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. These include suspect, probable, and laboratory-confirmed cases.

As of 20 July 2014, the cumulative number of cases attributed to EVD in the three countries stands at 1,093, including 660 deaths.

Border limiting option

That the disease has been recorded in neighboring Nigeria, and reports of the influx of migrants from affected regions entering Ghana, poses a great challenge for the Health Ministry to effectively prevent an outbreak in the country. There are, however, suggestions that Ghana, like Ivory Coast, should close some of its borders to prevent an outbreak of the disease.

Many have suggested that Ghana shuts down its Western borders and get the navy to watch the coastline, on account that people from Liberia, who are denied transit by Cote d’Ivoire, are using canoes to enter Ghana through her western coast. But, another school of thought says ‘border limiting’ would be problematic to implement in the circumstances, and would be against some international rules, and can have long-term consequences for the country.

Don’t panic, get the facts and be cautious

Health officials, however, say spreading panic information would not help the situation in the country’s effort to prevent the disease from entering Ghana.

They have, however, tasked everyone to be vigilant, be abreast with the facts, and exercise caution. Rumours of suspected cases of the Ebola disease continue to make headlines, as the general public is beginning to be more vigilant, looking out for signs of the disease.

News went viral of a suspected Ebola case at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region. This was after one passenger on a bus suspected to be from Liberia, one of the countries affected by the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, was run down by a vehicle when residents tried apprehending the passengers on board the bus to send them to the police.

The victim was sent to the hospital with his head bleeding and a fractured leg.

The Accident and Emergency Centre at the hospital was closed to the public last Sunday. But the Ashanti Regional Director of Health, Dr. Alexis Nang-Beifuba, said they are about 90 percent sure the patient and the passengers on board the bus are free of the Ebola disease. Analysis of blood samples of the suspected victim is still underway at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research.

Some facts about Ebola

The following are guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

The suspected reservoirs for Ebola are fruit bats.

Transmission to humans is thought to originate from infected bats or primates that have become infected by bats.

Undercooked infected bat and primate (bush) meat transmits the virus to humans.

Human to human transmission is only achieved by physical contact with a person who is acutely and gravely ill from the Ebola virus or their body fluids.

Transmission among humans is almost exclusively among caregiver family members or health care workers tending to the very ill.

The virus is easily killed by contact with soap, bleach, sunlight, or drying. A washing machine will kill the virus in clothing saturated with infected body fluids.

A person can incubate the virus without symptoms for 2-21 days, the average being 5-8 days before becoming ill. THEY ARE NOT CONTAGIOUS until they are acutely ill.

Only when ill does the viral load express itself first in the blood and then in other bodily fluids (to include vomit, feces, urine, breast milk, semen and sweat).

If you are walking around you are not infectious to others.

There are documented cases from Kikwit, DRC, of an Ebola outbreak in a village that had the custom of children never touching an ill adult. Children living for days in small one room huts with parents who died from Ebola did not become infected.

You cannot contract Ebola by handling money, buying local bread or swimming in a pool.

There is no medical reason to stop flights, close borders, restrict travel or close embassies, businesses or schools.

As always practice good hand washing techniques, but you will not contract Ebola if you do not touch a dying person.